Everything about having kids is expensive. That’s not a secret. But I’d be lying if I said I was totally shocked when I read the New York Time’s recent article on the cost of childbirth in this country.
Apparently, it’s the most expensive in the world.
Shocked? No. Disgusted? Yes.
WTH are we paying for? And why are we paying more than anywhere else in the world?
First, let’s look at some of the numbers: The average cost for childbirth alone (not including prenatal or newborn care) in 2012 in the U.S. was $9,775 for a vaginal delivery and $15,041 for a c-section; Switzerland mothers paid $4,039 and $5,186 (respectively); France mothers paid $3,541 and $6,441; and Britain mothers paid $2,641 and $4,435.
Now, I’m no mathematician, but that means American mothers paid upwards of – and over! – four times (for vaginal) and five times (for c-section) as much when we compare costs to other countries.
But, ya get what ya pay for, right? Wrong.
According to the article, “though maternity care costs far less in other developed countries than it does in the United States, studies show that their citizens do not have less access to high-tech care during pregnancy than Americans.” Further, the United States has “one of the highest rates of both infant and maternity death among industrialized nations.”
Delivery charges have about tripled since 1996, and between 2004 and 2010 alone, the prices paid by insurers for childbirth rose 49 percent for vaginal deliveries and 41 percent for c-sections.
For these prices, you’d think we were all giving birth at the Helmsley Palace. But these are prices for regular ol’ hospitals, in AnyTown, USA – with basic care. Our friends in France have it way better. Paying a fraction of what we pay here, French women “often remain in the hospital for nearly a week to heal and learn to breastfeed, while American women tend to be discharged a day or two after birth, since insurers do not pay costs for anything that is not considered medically necessary.”
The problem – or at least part of it –is how pregnancy is billed: item by item. Twenty years ago, these charges were lumped together in a general hospital fee, but today, fees are broken down item by item. And all of the prices are hugely inflated for no explainable reason. For example, it’s not uncommon to be charged individually for an epidural at a fee between $750 and $1,000. That same procedure goes for 100 bucks in countries like Germany. The. Same. Procedure.
Another part of the problem is the ridiculous rates at which expensive c-sections and “medicalized” deliveries are performed in this country. According to the article, “30 percent of American women have Caesarean sections or have labor induced with drugs – far higher than those of other developed countries and far above rates that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists considers necessary.”
Women with insurance sometimes catch a slight break, but not all plans include maternity coverage – and not all women even have insurance. But there seems to be just a bit of light at the end of this very expensive tunnel: In 2014, all insurance policies will be required to provide maternity coverage.
So, if you’re planning to have a baby, you might want to consider saving for birth, not just for college…
Read more of Aela’s writing at Two Moms Make a Right
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