Each year, women in the United States give birth to nearly half a million babies who have been exposed to illicit drugs in utero. These infants are more likely to be born prematurely and have low birth weight as well as other medical complications at birth.
The cost of hospitalization for a very low birth weight baby in need of intensive care can be as high as $150,000 or more. The annual medical cost of caring for cocaine-exposed babies nationwide has been estimated at $33 million for neonates, and as high as $1.5 billion during the baby’s first year of life.
Taxpayers often end up paying for the ongoing care of these at-risk children. According to Vanderbilt University, this problem accounts for $1.5 billion a year in health care charges, more than 8o% being paid by Medicaid.