After I delivered my first child, I was settling into my new mommy role at home and enjoying my daughter’s first days of life when the first medical bills started showing up in my mailbox.
I had health insurance, which helped considerably, but my husband and I were still faced with some fairly hefty out-of-pocket expenses for my cesarean delivery. Hello, baby! Goodbye, money.
According to a new study published in Health Affairs, there is no hard-and-fast formula for determining childbirth costs. That may be understandable considering some women have natural, uncomplicated childbirth, while other women have high risk pregnancies or more involved cesarean deliveries. However, the study also found that the hospital where a mother delivers can have a significant impact on childbirth costs.
Estimated average hospital childbirth costs varied from $1,189 to $11,986, the study said. The median maternity stay totaled $4,215. The figures don’t include fees for the obstetrician, midwife or anesthesiologist, who typically bill separately for their services.
Study co-author Dr. Jessica Illuzzi, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine, told Kaiser Health News that she was surprised by the wide variation in childbirth costs.
“We limited our sample to low-risk women, a uniform group, so finding that variability” was unexpected, Illuzzi said.
Childbirth costs were higher at facilities with greater C-section delivery rates, hospitals with government or nonprofit ownership, rural hospitals or facilities that had lower volumes of childbirths or low proportions of childbirth covered by Medicaid.
Nearly 4 million children are born in the United States each year, with childbirth being the No. 1 reason for hospital admission, according to Kaiser Health News.
“There’s so much attention being paid to the cost of care today, but little attention is paid to maternity costs, the leading cause of hospitalization,” Illuzzi said.
The report concluded:
The large variation in estimated facility cost for low-risk childbirths among hospitals suggests that hospital practices might be an important contributor to variation in cost and that there may be opportunities for cost reduction. The safe reduction of cesarean deliveries, increasing the coordination of care, and emphasizing value of care through new payment and delivery systems reforms may help reduce hospital costs and cost variation associated with childbirth in the United States.
The study is based on data from the 2011 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, which included 267,120 births at 463 hospitals across the country.
After you get over the sticker shock of delivering a baby, consider that raising a child to age 18 will drain your bank account of $245,340, and that doesn’t include college expenses. Wow.
But don’t let the exorbitant cost of childbirth and raising a child scare you away from having a child. Check out our list of more than 20 tips to cut your child-raising costs in half.
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