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House Panel Pulls Teeth From Baby Bill Mothers Must Prove ‘Medical Necessity’ For Longer Hospital Stays

Sat., Feb. 24, 1996

A Spokane doctor fears he’ll be pressured to boot new moms from the hospital after state lawmakers Friday yanked from a bill a provision allowing women longer maternity stays.

House Health Care Committee members say the bill’s new version still lets doctors keep women hospitalized as long as “medically necessary.”

But Dr. Donald Barford, who delivers babies at Deaconess and Sacred Heart medical centers, isn’t convinced.

“The reality is there’s pressure on physicians and patients to leave the hospitals early,” said Barford. “They (insurers) pressure the hospitals by saying they’re not going to pay for more than one day.”

The senator who sponsored the bill agrees.

“They took the teeth out of the bill,” said Sen. Kevin Quigley, D-Lake Stevens.

“Without a clear standard, the insurance companies won’t properly reimburse the hospitals so the hospitals will continue to put pressure on the doctors.”

Women stay in Spokane maternity wards an average of 24 hours for vaginal deliveries and 72 hours following Caesarean sections.

The Senate first approved a bill that guaranteed women could stay in the hospital - with their doctor’s recommendation - up to two days after vaginal birth and four days after Caesarean section.

The bill was altered Friday when House Health Care Committee Chairman Phil Dyer, R-Issaquah, proposed deleting that section.

The result means cheaper insurance and more flexibility for doctors, Dyer argued.

“The bill would’ve increased costs dramatically,” he said. “It would’ve mandated (longer) stays.”

Women would have taken advantage of the guaranteed longer stays even if they were fit to leave in just a day or less, he said. “It’s human nature. Everybody would turn hospital beds into $1,000-a-night hotel rooms.”

The new version will still give doctors the last word on how long a woman stays in the hospital, Dyer said.

They’ll only have to prove the stay is “medically necessary.”

The bill’s fate will be decided in the next two weeks.

Senate backers of the measure could try to get the bill changed back to its original form in conference committee or they could push to have it adopted as is.

Barford, for one, doesn’t have much faith anything will change for doctors and new mothers.

“Clearly,” he said, “this is a recipe for social disaster.”

, DataTimes

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