The analysis of the cost of preterm birth was led by University of Utah economics professor Norman Waitzman and Ali Jalali, now a postdoctoral associate at Weill Cornell Medicine Healthcare Policy & Research. The total cost in 2016, including medical costs for children, medical costs of maternal delivery, early intervention and special education services and lost labor market productivity, totaled $25.2 billion, or an average of $64,815 per preterm birth*. From 2005 to 2016, the average cost of a preterm birth increased by 25%. The results, Waitzman said, are a starting point for focusing intervention efforts. “How much can timely and high quality prenatal care for example, bring down the rate of preterm birth?” he said. “Increasing gestational age even by a few weeks would reduce adverse consequences and save a lot.”
*up from $51,600. Behrman and Butler, 2006. Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention, July 13, 2006. Institute of Medicine. Researchers calculated an average of $33,200 spent in infant medical care costs per preterm birth (above and beyond what would have been expended had these infants been born at term). Including maternal delivery costs, early intervention services, and special education services associated with a higher prevalence of four disabling conditions among premature infants, as well as lost household and labor market productivity associated with those disabilities, the total cost per preterm infant increased to $37,152 in direct medical costs and $51,600 cost total. These cost estimates are considered conservative.