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Healthcare costs for abortions performed in ambulatory surgery centers vs office-based settings

Published:October 17, 2019DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2019.10.002

      Background

      Several states require that abortions be provided in ambulatory surgery centers. Supporters of such laws argue that they make abortions safer, yet previous studies have found no differences in abortion-related morbidities or adverse events for abortions performed in ambulatory surgery centers versus office-based settings. However, little is known about how costs of abortions provided in ambulatory surgery centers differ from those provided in office-based settings.

      Objective

      To compare healthcare expenditures for abortions performed in ambulatory surgery centers versus office-based settings using a large national private insurance claims database.

      Materials and Methods

      A retrospective cohort study compared expenditures for abortions performed in ambulatory surgery centers versus office-based settings. Data on women who had abortions in an ambulatory surgery center or office-based setting between January 1, 2011, and December 31, 2014 were obtained from the MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters database. The sample was limited to women who were continuously enrolled in their insurance plans for at least 1 year before and at least 6 weeks after the abortion. Healthcare expenditures were assessed separately for the index abortion and the 6-week period after the abortion. Costs were measured from the perspective of the healthcare system and included all payments to the provider, including insurance company payments and any patient out-of-pocket payments.

      Results

      Overall, 49,287 beneficiaries who had 50,311 abortions met inclusion criteria. Of the included abortions, 47% were first-trimester aspiration, 27% first-trimester medication, and 26% second-trimester or later abortions. Most abortions (89%) were provided in office-based settings, with 11% provided in ambulatory surgery centers. Unadjusted mean index abortion costs were higher in ambulatory surgery centers than in office-based settings ($1704 versus $810; P < .001). After adjusting for patient clinical and demographic characteristics, costs of index abortions were $772 higher (95% confidence interval, $746–$797), total follow-up costs for abortions that had any follow-up care were $1099 higher (95% confidence interval, $1004–$1,195), and total follow-up costs for abortions that had an abortion-related morbidity or adverse event were not significantly different in ambulatory surgery centers compared to office-based settings. There were also no significant differences in the likelihood of having any follow-up care or abortion-related event follow-up care.

      Conclusion

      Abortions performed at ambulatory surgery centers are significantly more costly than those performed in office-based settings, with no difference in the likelihood of receiving follow-up care. Laws requiring that abortions be provided in ambulatory surgery centers may only result in increased costs for abortions, with no effect on abortion safety.

      Key words

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