Context: Neonates are being discharged from the hospital more rapidly, but the risks associated with this practice, especially for low-income populations, are unclear.
Objective: To determine the impact of decreasing postnatal length of stay on rehospitalization rates in the immediate postdischarge period for Medicaid neonates.
Design and setting: Retrospective, population-based cohort study using Ohio Medicaid claims data linked to vital statistics files from July 1, 1991, to June 15, 1995.
Participants: A total of 102 678 full-term neonates born to mothers receiving Medicaid for at least 30 days after birth.
Main outcome measures: Rehospitalization rates within 7 and 14 days of discharge, postdischarge health care use, and regional variations in length of stay and rehospitalization.
Results: The proportion of neonates who were discharged following a short stay (less than 1 day after vaginal delivery, less than 2 days after cesarean birth) increased 185%, from 21% to 59.8% (P<.001) and the mean (SD) length of stay decreased 27%, from 2.2 (1.0) to 1.6 (0.9) days (P<.001), over the course of the study. The proportion of neonates who received a primary care visit within 14 days of birth increased 117% (P = .001). Rehospitalization rates within 7 and 14 days of discharge decreased by 23%, from 1.3% to 1.0% (P=.01), and by 19%, from 2.1% to 1.7% (P=.03), respectively. Short stay across the 6 regions of the state varied significantly over time (P<.001). Factors significantly associated with increased likelihood of rehospitalization within both 7 and 14 days of discharge were white race, shorter gestation, primiparity, earlier year of birth, lower 5-minute Apgar score, vaginal delivery, married mother, and region of the state.
Conclusion: Our data suggest that reductions in length of stay for full-term Medicaid newborns in Ohio have not resulted in an increase in rehospitalization rates in the immediate postnatal period.