Press Releases

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Blue Cross and Blue Shield designated hospitals decreased c-section rates and improved health of mothers and children

55 hospitals in Highmark Inc.'s service area are among the nation's Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care

PITTSBURGH (July 3, 2018) — The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) reports that Blue Distinction® Centers for Maternity Care — including 55 hospitals in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia — achieved a 32 percent lower cesarean section (C-section) rate for first-time mothers compared to hospitals that are not in the program.

The Blue Distinction Centers average C-section rate of 23.7 percent surpasses the Healthy People 2020 federal goal to reduce C-section rates for first-time, low-risk mothers in the U.S. to 23.9 percent by 2020.

In order to qualify for a Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care designation, a hospital has to achieve a C-section rate of 27 percent or lower, among other patient health outcomes and quality measures that are reviewed. Compared to other hospitals, Blue Distinction Centers also have 70 percent fewer early (37-39 weeks) elective deliveries and 53 percent fewer episiotomies.

"We are fortunate to have so many hospitals in our service area with the Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care designation," said Rhonda Moore-Johnson, MD, senior medical director for Highmark Inc. "Even in today's modern hospitals, giving birth can be risky for the mother. The Maternity Care designation helps ensure consumers that the hospital they chose provides the best, highest quality care."

In addition to higher complications for babies and mothers, C-sections that are not medically necessary also add cost to the health care system. For commercially insured Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) members, the average cost difference between vaginal and cesarean deliveries was $4,157 ($13,325 versus $17,482), according to a Blue Cross Blue Shield Health of America Report.

Nearly four million babies are born in the U.S. annually, making childbirth the most common reason for hospitalization. BCBSA announced the national designation in 2016 to help prospective parents find hospitals that deliver quality, affordable maternity care. Today, BCBS companies across the nation have recognized more than 1,080 hospitals for quality maternity care.

The Blue Distinction Centers for Maternity Care program selection criteria also considers a hospital's implementation of consistent maternal safety bundles developed by the Council on Patient Safety in Women's Health Care, a multi-stakeholder group, in which the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is a core partner, that drives cultural change to improve women's health. The bundles consist of best practices for providers to implement, to prevent or respond promptly to common pregnancy-related conditions, such as hemorrhage and hypertension, which can often lead to adverse outcomes or death.

Since 2006, the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program has recognized hospitals for delivering quality specialty care safely and effectively based on objective measures developed with input from the medical community. It has helped patients find quality providers for their specialty care needs in the areas of bariatric surgery, cardiac care, cancer care, knee and hip replacements, spine surgery and transplants. Research shows that, compared to other facilities, those designated as Blue Distinction Centers demonstrate better quality and improved outcomes for patients. On average, Blue Distinction Centers+ are also 20 percent more cost-efficient than non-Blue Distinction Center+ designated health care facilities.

For more information about the program, and to see a complete list of facilities designated as Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+ for Maternity Care, please visit

About Highmark Inc.

Highmark Inc. and its health insurance subsidiaries and affiliates collectively are among the ten largest health insurers in the United States and comprise the fourth-largest Blue Cross and Blue Shield-affiliated organization. Highmark Inc. and affiliates operate health insurance plans in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia that serve 5 million members and hundreds of thousands of additional members through the BlueCard® program. Its diversified businesses serve group customer and individual needs across the United States through dental insurance, vision care and other related businesses. Highmark Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. For more information, visit

About Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans. BCBSA provides health care insights through The Health of America Report series and the national BCBS Health Indexsm. For more information on BCBSA and its member companies, please visit We also encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube, follow us on Twitter and check out our blog.

About Blue Distinction Centers

Blue Distinction Centers (BDC) met overall quality measures, developed with input from the medical community. A Local Blue Plan may require additional criteria for providers located in its own service area; for details, contact your Local Blue Plan. Blue Distinction Centers+ (BDC+) also met cost measures that address consumers' need for affordable healthcare. Each provider's cost of care is evaluated using data from its Local Blue Plan. Providers in CA, ID, NY, PA, and WA may lie in two Local Blue Plans' areas, resulting in two evaluations for cost of care; and their own Local Blue Plans decide whether one or both cost of care evaluation(s) must meet BDC+ national criteria. National criteria for BDC and BDC+ are displayed on Individual outcomes may vary. For details on a provider's in-network status or your own policy's coverage, contact your Local Blue Plan and ask your provider before making an appointment. Neither Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association nor any Blue Plans are responsible for non-covered charges or other losses or damages resulting from Blue Distinction or other provider finder information or care received from Blue Distinction or other providers.

For more information, contact:
Anthony Matrisciano
Highmark Inc.
Office: 570-200-6310
Cell: 570-574-0050