Some advocates believe the Affordable Care Act is responsible for the premature birth rate falling in 2013 to its lowest level in 17 years.

According to the March of Dimes, the premature birth rate fell to 11.4 percent last year, and some people in the field believe the expansion of Medicaid eligibility in many states, which enabled people with incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to obtain health insurance and better access to care, most likely played a major role in this positive development.

ultrasoundThe key, advocates believe, is that access to care results in women being in better health before they become pregnant and then receiving prenatal care early in their pregnancies.

This is an especially encouraging development for private safety-net hospitals because they care for more Medicaid patients and are more likely to provide obstetric services than the typical acute-care hospital.

For more information about the decline in the premature birth rate and other health care reform provisions that may contribute to further decline in the coming years, see this Kaiser Health News report.  Find the March of Dimes annual report on premature births here.