Journal Article Twin Births in Medicaid: Prevalence, Outcomes, Utilization, and Cost in Four States, 2014–2015
Embry M. Howell, Paul Johnson, Caitlin Cross-Barnet
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Twin births have increased in prevalence. Twin births are more likely to have poorer outcomes than singleton births and are more costly. However, although Medicaid paid for approximately half of U.S. births in 2016, little is known specifically about the incidence of twin births and related costs for Medicaid beneficiaries. This paper seeks to expand the knowledge of twin births covered by Medicaid.


We obtained data for singleton (N = 115,568) and twin (N = 3775) Medicaid-covered births in selected geographic areas of four states in 2014 and 2015. States provided linked birth certificates to Medicaid claims data for mothers and infants. We compared health care utilization and Medicaid costs for twins to singletons in the same geographic areas.


The prevalence of Medicaid twins in the selected areas of these four states was 3.2% of births, identical to the rate of twins nationwide. Two thirds of Medicaid twins were born preterm, and average gestational age was 34.8 weeks. Mothers of twins had higher rates of C-Sect. (73.6% vs. 32.0% for singletons) and of neonatal intensive care use (45.2% vs. 11.1%). The average length of delivery stay for twins was 12.3 days, vs. 4.1, and the rate of hospital readmissions was almost twice as high. The total cost for mother and infant over the prenatal, delivery, and post-natal period for a pair of twins was $48,479, over two and a half times as high as for singleton births ($18,032). However, when considering the average cost of a single twin vs. a singleton birth, the cost differential is less ($24,239 vs. $18,032, or a ratio of 1.34).


Medicaid twins are a fragile population with poorer outcomes and higher service use than singleton infants. Twins contribute substantially to the Medicaid cost of maternity and newborn care. A variety of strategies can be used to improve twin outcomes and reduce costs.

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Research Areas Health and health care
Tags Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program  Maternal, child, and reproductive health
Policy Centers Health Policy Center