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February 23, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa — In an effort to help prospective parents find hospitals that deliver quality, affordable maternity care, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced the first hospitals in South Dakota to receive the Blue Distinction® Center and Blue Distinction Center+ for Maternity Care designations under the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program. 

Nearly four million babies are born in the U.S. annually, making childbirth the most common cause of hospitalization. This new maternity care program evaluates hospitals on several quality measures, including the percentage of newborns that fall into the category of early elective delivery, an ongoing concern in the medical community. Compared with babies born 39 weeks or later, early term infants face higher risks of infant death and respiratory ailments such as respiratory distress syndrome, pneumonia, and respiratory failure, among other conditions. These babies also have a higher rate of admission to Neonatal Intensive Care Units.

Wellmark has designated two hospitals as Blue Distinction Centers and seven as Blue Distinction Centers+ for Maternity Care in South Dakota:

Provider/Health System
Avera McKennan Sioux Falls Blue Distinction Center+
Avera Queen of Peace Hospital Mitchell Blue Distinction Center
Avera Sacred Heart Hospital Yankton Blue Distinction Center+
Avera St. Luke's Hospital Aberdeen Blue Distinction Center
Brookings Health System Brookings Blue Distinction Center+
Prairie Lakes Health Care System Watertown Blue Distinction Center+
Sanford Aberdeen Medical Center Aberdeen Blue Distinction Center+
Sanford USD Medical Center Sioux Falls Blue Distinction Center+
St. Mary's Health Care Center Pierre Blue Distinction Center+

Blue Distinction Centers and Blue Distinction Centers+ for Maternity Care are hospitals recognized for delivering quality specialty care safely and effectively, based on objective measures developed with input from the medical community. To receive a Blue Distinction Centers+ for Maternity Care designation, a hospital must meet the same quality criteria as Blue Distinction Centers while also meeting requirements for cost efficiency.

In addition, hospitals that receive a Blue Distinction Center for Maternity Care designation agreed to meet requirements that align with principles that support evidence-based practices of care, as well as having initiated programs to promote successful breastfeeding, as described in the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative by Baby-Friendly USA or the Mother-Friendly Hospital program by the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) through its "Ten Steps of Mother-Friendly Care." The program also evaluates hospitals on overall patient satisfaction, including a willingness to recommend the hospital to others.

Since 2006, the Blue Distinction Specialty Care program has helped patients find quality providers for their specialty care needs in the areas of bariatric surgery, cardiac care, complex and rare cancers, 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 Blue Distinction Centers for Specialty Care program and for a complete listing of the designated facilities, please visit Site.

About Wellmark

Wellmark, Inc. does business as Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. Wellmark and its subsidiaries and affiliated companies, including Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc., insure or pay health benefit claims for more than 2 million members in Iowa and South Dakota. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota, and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc. are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.


About Blue Distinction Centers

Blue Distinction Centers (BDC) met overall quality measures for patient safety and outcomes, developed with input from the medical community. A Local Blue Plan may require additional criteria for facilities 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 health care. Each facility’s cost of care is evaluated using data from its Local Blue Plan. Facilities 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 bcbs.comExternal Site. 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.