C-Sections And The Profit Motive In California

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An investigation of cesarean-section rates at hospitals in California finds they are higher at for-profit institutions.

An investigation of cesarean-section rates at hospitals in California finds they are higher at for-profit institutions. The differences are apparent even when the focus is low-risk pregnancies, California Watch reports.

Every new analysis shows cesarean section in this country are pretty much out of control.

Now a look at the variations in the rates of cesarean sections in California find they're much more likely at for-profit hospitals -- 17 percent more likely according to an investigation by the non-profit journalism outfit California Watch.

Statewide data show big variation in C-section rates, even when confined to women with low-risk pregnancies. At nonprofit Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Medical Center, the C-section rate was 9 percent. At for-profit Los Angeles Community Hospital, the rate 47 percent.

"The wide variation in C-section rates really is a cause for concern,” Dr. Jeanne Conry, California district chairwoman of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told California Watch. (She also happens to be on staff at Kaiser Permanente.)

A hospital can make more money from a c-section birth, which can produce twice as much revenue as a vaginal delivery.

A recent snapshot of the C-section around the nation found that about a third of births are now surgical procedures. Sure record-breaking rates have something to do with more older and overweight mothers, plus more twins.

But the California investigation focused on low-risk births and still found high rates at many hospitals, especially those that are owned by for-profit companies.

A spokesman with for-profit hospital chain Tenet Healthcare said California Watch's premise was wrong and that the choice of C-section is made by the patient and doctor without influence by the hospital.

A big problem around the country is the rate of births that are induced. Nowadays, about 44 percent of attempted vaginal deliveries are induced, a decision which is twice as likely to lead to a cesarean. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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