Rochester, NY

New York State Rates of Birth Complications After Patients Leave the Hospital Higher than the National Average

Analysis of millions of births shows one-third of birth complications occur during the six weeks following discharge and disproportionately affect Black patients.

The country’s maternal health crisis goes far beyond the delivery room. 

New data shows that dangerous, unexpected birth complications often emerge weeks after the patient and baby have left the hospital, with Black patients experiencing these events at a rate 87% higher than white patients. Moreover, New York state has the highest number of these events in the nation, according to a new Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) analysis.

The analysis of these birth complications, known as severe maternal morbidity (SMM), draws on nationwide data from more than 700,000 BCBS commercially insured births and data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on more than 1.5 million Medicaid births. Across New York state, the data revealed the rates of SMM events are higher than the national average, both overall, and for each ethnic group (Black, Hispanic, white), particularly for Medicaid members. The data also confirms racial and ethnic disparities in SMM events in New York state.

“The statistics are alarming, but they’ve also presented an opportunity and a responsibility to confront this national crisis,” says Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s Dr. Simone Edwards, vice president, health equity and community investments. “Excellus BCBS is committed to collaborating with local community organizations to support safe pregnancies and childbirth, eliminate pregnancy-related health disparities, and improve health outcomes for new mothers and babies.” 

Bridging the gaps

Excellus BCBS’s Bright Beginnings program is stepping in to fill necessary gaps in care like transportation, resources, and provider referrals to help new parents effectively care for themselves and their mental health.

The program, led by Kara Traverse, manager, Maternity Care Management, includes a team of licensed social workers and registered nurses who meet with members referred by area doctors and hospitals, family, and even members themselves. 

“They contact the member, listen to their concerns, and screen for depression and anxiety. From there, the case manager assesses and makes appropriate recommendations, providing resources for transportation, education, mental health support and more,” Traverse explains. 

The Bright Beginnings team also collaborates with community-based partners committed to increasing maternal health care awareness and availability. From breast pump and pregnancy education to mental health screenings and arranging hospital and pediatrician visits, the Bright Beginnings program aims to help parents stay on track caring for themselves and their children.

Excellus BCBS also supports programs for maternal mental health run by community-based organizations across its operating area. Some of these efforts include Cortland-based Seven Valleys Health Coalition’s Post Partum Doula Support and Doula Partnership, Syracuse-based Contact Community Services’ Maternal Mental Health Follow Up Support, and Utica-based Integrated Community Alternatives Network’s (ICAN) Maternal Health Equity for Pregnant Homeless Teens.

Read the full report, “Improving Postpartum Maternal Health Outcomes,” part of the BCBS Health of America Report® series, here:

Edward Byrnes,

About Excellus BlueCross BlueShield
Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 4,500 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit

About Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is a national federation of independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide health care coverage for one in three Americans.


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