Lower Circumcision Rates Could Mean Increased Health Care Costs

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have been studying the ongoing decline in the number baby boys who are circumcised, concluding that the drop could mean increased health care costs, to the tune of billions of dollars.  The study comes as a growing number of states’ Medicaid insurance programs are cutting coverage for the procedure. Time Magazine reports:

Studies link circumcision with numerous health benefits: the procedure is associated with lower risks of urinary tract infections in babies and young boys, and reductions in men’s risk of contracting HIV, genital herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV); it may also help reduce the odds of penile and prostate cancers. By reducing the burden of sexually transmitted infections among men, it may also help keep more women infection-free as well.

If circumcision rates were to drop from the current 55% to 10%, urinary tract infections in baby boys may rise a whopping 212%, and in men, HIV infections could increase by 12%, HPV infections by 29% and herpes simplex virus type 2 by 20%. In women, dropping rates of male circumcision could increase cases of bacterial vaginosis by 18% and low-risk HPV by 13%.

As gaps in insurance coverage increasingly lead parents to opt out of circumcision, the researchers say a drop to 10% is not unlikely — that’s in line with circumcision rates in Europe, where the procedure is typically not covered by insurance. Medicaid programs in many states have eliminated coverage of the procedure: currently, 18 states no longer pay for it, with South Carolina and Colorado most recently ending coverage last year. According to the study authors, the rate of circumcision rates had remained steady at about 79% between 1970 and ’80, but fell to 63% in 1999 and then dropped again to 55% in 2010.

Image: Newborn boy, via Shutterstock

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  1. by Kayla

    On August 31, 2012 at 9:05 am

    For the further healthcare costs- wouldn’t some of these risks be eliminated if we taught safe sex and cleanliness? Also what about the effects circumcision has on breastfeeding? This topic keeps bumping around and it’s getting hard to follow when every few months the opinion changes.

  2. by Brad

    On February 22, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    I say it’s ignorance. Parents are not willing to teach their young son’s how to properly wash their genitalia. My parent’s did and I have honestly never had a problem with my foreskin.