Yes, the Royal Birth Cost Less Than Most American Births — But Are We Really Surprised?

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By now, we’ve definitely all heard the news: Britain’s Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (AKA William and Kate) welcomed their third child, Prince Louis, on Monday, April 23. Being fifth in line to the throne and all, Louis and his mama obviously got the royal treatment when it came time for him to make his grand entrance — in fact, the royal birth took place (once again) in the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital in London, which boasts some pretty top-of-the-line maternity suites. But it’s the price tag that came along with his birth that’s making some major headlines this week.

Not many of us can say that our own hospital rooms offered meals catered by chefs and delivered by waiters, fancy wine lists, and afternoon teas when we gave birth. (The advanced medical care at St. Mary’s isn’t too shabby, either.) With accommodations like those, you’d probably assume the whole thing cost an arm and a leg. But nope — according to The Economist, Prince Louis’ royal birth was actually quite reasonably priced. In fact, the royal birth cost considerably less than most American births.

The Economist reports that the Lindo Wing charges an average of £5,670, or $8,900, for a vaginal birth in one of their deluxe rooms. But according to a survey by the International Federation of Health Plans, the average cost of a similar delivery in America would be a whopping $10,808. And that doesn’t even take into account prenatal care, which is free in most European countries, but not free in America.

So, if you add a woman’s prenatal costs to her hospital fee, that puts the bill in the $30,000 range, according to Truven Health Analytics. And even though health insurance generally covers most of that, many of us end up having to cover at least some out-of-pocket costs. That amount can vary, but an average out-of-pocket bill for American births is roughly $3,000 — which is no small fee.

For that amount, we should all really be getting catered meals, don’t ya think?

Remember, we’re talking about an uncomplicated vaginal birth here, which is certainly not how birth goes for all of us.

Clint Edwards, a Babble contributor and dad of three, shares that his wife Mel’s first pregnancy ended in an emergency C-section, leaving his family with a bill for $5,000 — more than twice what they’d saved to cover the costs. As a result, it took the new parents several months to pay off the bill. (And I think we can all agree that having a new baby in your home is just about the least convenient time to be paying off hospital debts, amiright?)

Edward’s second child was not only born by C-section, but also required a two-week stay in the NICU. The bill for that was $80,000 — GULP! — and Edwards estimates that his family had to pay about $10,000 of it out-of-pocket. Luckily, Edwards was able to qualify for some government assistance that ultimately helped him pay it all off; but not every family in this position can say the same.

“I qualified for government assistance within about $100,” Edwards tells Babble. “If that hadn’t happened, I’d have been in serious trouble.”

And what about if you aren’t insured at all? Remember, in the U.K. everyone is insured, and because health care is government subsidized, the government can negotiate the costs of medical expenses like childbirth to a more reasonable rate. While the same cannot be said for America, the good news is that close to 90% of Americans do have health insurance, even if many are paying for it out-of-pocket (which, as we all know, isn’t cheap).

Still, according to the latest polls, that leaves 11% of Americans who don’t have any health insurance at all — meaning millions of Americans have no plan for medical emergencies or big life events like childbirth. Other families may have health insurance, but often have trouble finding doctors in their area that will accept their plans.

One mom of two from California who wishes to remain anonymous tells Babble that while her hospital accepted her insurance, her OB did not, and the whole thing wound up being pretty costly.

“In 2007, I paid $10K for a regular vaginal birth,” she explains. “I believe a C-section would have been roughly $12-15K.”

Once she hit her deductible, the new mom was actually reimbursed for half that amount; but she still had to shell out $10K up front, which is a lot of cash to come up with in a relatively short amount of time.

And even if paying several thousand dollars is feasible for some families, it just sort of boggles the mind that something as essential as bringing a new life safely into the world should cost the equivalent of several months rent or a brand new car. Unless you’re getting a swanky maternity suite with a masseuse on hand, giving birth shouldn’t be considered such a luxury, if you ask me.

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what the answer is here; but I think we can all agree that average American families should not have to struggle or stress financially about something so essential. Raising a child is expensive enough without hospital bills sending you into debt from Day 1. We certainly can’t all expect to receive the royal treatment when giving birth, but surely we should at least not have to break the bank to get basic care.

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