According to a recent news release by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), the U.S. Department of Labor has issued final rules under the Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act of 1996. The new regulations, taking effect on December 19, 2008, apply to health insurance plans issued on or after January 1, 2009.
The rules were issued in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury Department. They apply to group health plans and health insurers, including businesses that are self-insured. The new rules from the U.S. Department of Labor regulate, among other things, the length of time mothers and newborn babies may stay in the hospital.
Under the “general rule”, employers can restrict the hospital stay after a cesarean to 96 hours – but cannot require that mothers leave the hospital sooner. The new federal regulations do not require that new mothers stay in the hospital that long. The regulations contain a long list of restrictions to ensure that an early discharge does not endanger the health of mother or infant. In particular, the insurance company cannot provide financial incentives to healthcare providers to require mothers leave the hospital earlier.