Variation in Coverage for Progesterone to Prevent Preterm Birth: A Survey of Medicaid Managed Care Organizations

Womens Health Issues. 2017 Sep-Oct;27(5):573-578. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2017.05.006. Epub 2017 Jul 4.


Introduction: Preterm birth is the leading cause of U.S. infant morbidity and mortality; Medicaid enrollees disproportionately experience preterm deliveries. Data suggest that progesterone-an evidence-based therapy for preventing preterm birth-is not accessible to all eligible Medicaid beneficiaries. This study aimed to identify variation in progesterone coverage guidelines in a sample of state Medicaid managed care organizations (MMCOs).

Material and methods: Using a cross-sectional design, participation in a web-based survey was offered to 20 MMCO members of the Medicaid Health Plans of America. The survey assessed coverage guidelines for progesterone and associated interventions to prevent preterm birth. MMCOs identified key barriers in providing progesterone. Descriptive analyses were performed.

Results: Analyses included data from 18 plans providing coverage in 31 of the 39 states with MMCOs (response rate, 90.0%). Responding MMCOs were diverse: 55.6% were multistate, 33.3% were nonprofit, and 31.2% covered more than 1,000,000 lives. Most respondents (87.5%) covered branded progesterone, and 81.3% covered compounded progesterone. Prior authorization was required by most plans for branded progesterone (86.7%) or compounded progesterone (75.0%). The MMCO gestational age restrictions for initiating progesterone varied from 22 to 37 weeks of gestation, even within the same state. MMCO-identified barriers to providing progesterone included cost, lack of clinician knowledge of indications and coverage, and variation in billing procedures.

Discussion: Marked variation in MMCO coverage policies and procedures for progesterone and related interventions to prevent preterm birth was noted.

Implications for practice and policy: Standardizing MMCO coverage policies may be one way to improve access to evidence-based interventions that prevent preterm birth.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insurance Coverage*
  • Managed Care Programs
  • Medicaid / economics*
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth / prevention & control*
  • Progesterone / economics*
  • Progesterone / therapeutic use
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States


  • Progesterone