Add this to the list of totally outrageous and absurd things you’ll heard this week: Last night, the Facebook page Occupy Breastfeeding shared the medical bill of an anonymous mom. It was for her recent C-section (which totaled a whopping $3,106), as well as her consultation with a lactation consultant (which was another$61.96). But there was also another pesky little charge added on: $39.35 — for “Skin-to-Skin” contact after her baby was born.
The post, which has already been shared some 5K times, came along with this caption (which totally hits the nail on the head): “Nothing like being charged for holding your own baby.”
Seriously, WTF? How on earth could a mother be charged for holding her very own baby? Especially in the very first moments after said baby was born?
In this case, it’s not so much the amount that the mom is being charged, but the totally nonsensical reason for the charge. It’s almost as if the hospital was making something up in order to increase her bill. And it’s not as though new parents have a ton extra money lying around for stuff like this. In fact, according to this bill, the family still owes $1,626 — even after their insurance picks up the rest of the charges.
Most of the comments left on the Occupy Breastfeeding post were ones of total shock and outrage, but a couple commenters speculated on the possible reasons for the charge. It’s clear from the bill that the baby was born via C-section, so that the “skin-to-skin” time would have been in the operating room, which may have necessitated special help from hospital employees.
“[They’re] paying for the skilled nurse who’s required to stay in the OR with mom to facilitate skin-to-skin and to watch closely over mom holding her beautiful baby,” one commenter guessed, adding that the mom might have had side effects from the sedation, and needed help safely holding her baby.
Apparently, that commenter might be on to something.
Speaking with Babble, the dad behind the viral photo, Ryan Grassley, shared a bit more about what happened in the moments after his wife Lidia gave birth:
“The nurse was nearby while we were doing the skin to skin contact. My wife Lidia’s arms were tied to the table so she [couldn’t] hold the baby. I was holding the baby to her chest and the nurse reminded me a few times to be very careful the baby doesn’t suddenly move and fall on the floor. She was even nice enough to take my camera from me and snap some pictures of us.”
But little did Grassley know that those sweet first moments weren’t exactly free.
Regardless of the reasoning behind the charge, though, the Internet is almost unanimously outraged over the “measly” little fee.
But maybe the outrage is no big surprise. After all, the cost of giving birth in America has reached the height of ridiculousness. The fees are skyrocketing, it’s nearly impossible to calculate beforehand, and most new parents are often shocked by how little their insurance will cover when all is said and done. It’s no wonder this is pissing us all off.
Still, Grassley says reading through the reactions of strangers has been pretty eye-opening:
“Many people didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a hospital bill,” he tells Babble. “So it’s been interesting to see there reaction to the bill. I never thought so many people would see it. Just seemed a little ridiculous to me so I thought I would post it.”
“Ridiculous” certainly nails it. But sadly, he’s not alone. Babble quickly caught up with other parents who had similarly crazy (and totally stressful experiences) sorting out their hospital bills after giving birth. Their stories were pretty eye-opening on their own.
Jessica S., a mom of two, shares that her emergency C-section was not covered simply because it was an emergency, and only pre-authorized surgeries were covered.
“My son’s birth was an emergency c-section,” shares Jessica. “When we got the bill from the hospital, we owed more than $3,000 because none of the surgical costs were covered. Apparently ALL surgeries needed prior authorization or they are not covered. And, no, when my son’s heart rate plummeted and wouldn’t recover and I was rushed into the emergency room, we were not thinking that we needed to call the insurance company to get the surgery authorized. I tried to fight it, but we ended up having to pay.”
Honestly, that story had me shaking my head. Had the insurance company ever heard of “emergency C-sections” — you know, that amazing intervention that saves lives?
Alexis F., a mom of a 9-month old boy, was charged for three days her son spent in the nursery — that didn’t actually happen.
“We got a bill just 2 weeks ago (9 months after my son was born) for $3,500 or so for his stay in the nursery,” Alexis tells Babble. “They billed for 3 days too — one of which was spent with him STILL INSIDE MY UTERUS. Only catch is that he roomed in with me the entire time and never spent any time in the nursery.”
Thankfully, Alexis fought the bill and wasn’t ultimately responsible for the charges. But not all families are that lucky.
Rina Mae A., a mom of two, shares with Babble a completely different, but equally surprising story. Rina, who lives in Holland, left the hospital paying absolutely nothing, which points out the glaring differences between how maternity care (and healthcare in general) is handled in the United States vs. much of the developed world.
“I had a high risk pregnancy with an obstetrician, a private maternity room for a week, and my baby had to get jaundice treatment in neonatal ward for a couple of days,” Rina notes. Again, all of that care was 100% covered. I repeat: She received absolutely NO bill for her hospital stay.
Hmmm … wouldn’t it be nice if it was like that here, too? Instead, the New York Times reports that America is the costliest place to give birth in the world. Yes, IN THE WORLD. It seems to me that given all the horror stories we hear, it’s about time for some reform on that matter. After all, we’re talking about the livelihood of the next generation of children, and the mothers who give birth to them.
As absurd as some of these stories are, the fact is that something as basic and necessary as giving birth should be affordable to all families, all the time, without exceptions, and without extra charges thrown in all over the place that make absolutely no sense.
Ryan Grassley would like to make one little note, though: “I thought the doctors and nurses involved with the delivery and care of my wife and new baby did an outstanding job,” he says. “I thanked them all before even leaving the delivery room for being so good at what they do.”
That said, he’d still like his $40 back, thank you very much.
After getting the bill, Ryan and Lidia set up a Go Fund Me page to recoup their losses. You can donate here if you’d like — Ryan says that every dollar they get over $40 will go directly towards funding a vasectomy, “because I never want to go though these sleepless new baby nights again.”