Sticker Shock! The Cost of Having a Baby in the U.S.
Starting a family is one of life’s greatest decisions. It’s beautiful, scary, emotional, and thrilling. But, why in the world is the cost of having a baby so much?
Picture this: You bring home your brand new baby home from the hospital. Your’re figuring this whole keeping a human alive thing then you get hit with a bill from the hospital, $2,300. Wow! Okay. So you call and get monthly payments set up, hoping you can pay it off in a decent amount of time. Then comes another bill, from the anesthesiologist that did your epidural. A few weeks after that, another bill trickles in from the lab that ran your blood work. And the bills keep trickling in, you can hardly keep track of it all. By the time your done, you’ve probably paid anywhere between $500-$7,000 in total.
So How Much Does Having a Baby Cost in the United States?
According to International Federation of Health Plans, a normal vaginal delivery costs between $8,011 and $18,383 in the 2014 year. Women who had cesarean sections were charged anywhere between $11,401 and $28,473.
This is no wonder why many mothers decide to wait and are saying, “I can’t afford to have a baby right now”.
In a land of the $629 band-aid, U.S. healthcare is outrageous when compared to other countries such as Switzerland, Australia, and Canada where births are FREE. *
A similar study based on 2015 data, stated that women were charged $14,800 and billed $3,766 after insurance.
If you call your hospital, they won’t be able to give you the exact costs because it depends on your insurance coverage. When you call your insurance, they won’t be able to give you the estimate because it depends on what kind of delivery you have, which hospital you deliver at, and if there are any emergencies. Or, they may give you an estimated range of $4,000-$40,000. Are you kidding me?
The difference is so wide that it’s nearly impossible to know exactly what you are going to pay.
So how can you financially prepare for the cost of having a baby?
Here are some real costs of having a baby
Let’s take a look at some numbers from real moms and real out of pocket costs to give you an idea of how varied they can be. Please show them some love for providing this site with their information.
Hayley, Utah- paid $6500 for a VBAC with no insurance
Tiffany, Georgia- paid $11,000 for a Cesarean with Cigna insurance
Natalie, California- paid $4,500-6,000 for a water birth with a midwife and no insurance coverage for each of her kids
Brittany, North Carolina– paid $75 for and emergency cesarean with Tricare
Jordan, California– paid $500 for Vaginal birth with HealthNet
Heather, New York– paid $2500 for a Vaginal birth with Oxford and paid $400 for a Vaginal birth with Aetna
Ruby, Maryland– paid $0 for Cesarean with state insurance and paid $5 for Cesarean with Aetna
Kari, Oklahoma- paid $0 for Vaginal birth with Tricare, $25 for Vaginal birth with Aetna, and $350 for 3 week stay, Cesarean and NICU stay with Aetna
Erin, Pennsylvania- paid $500 for Vaginal birth, 12 day NICU and Life flight with Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield
Destiny, Idaho– paid $3,000 for Cesarean with Blue Cross Blue Shield
Christy, Colorado– paid $4,000 for a home birth with no insurance
Larken, Tennessee- paid $25,000 for a Cesarean with Cigna
Anonymous, Iowa- paid $3,700 each for Cesarean and VBAC with Blue Cross Blue Shield
As you can see, there’s no way to tell what you will be charged with. Unless you are affiliated with the military, are a federal or state employee, are low income, or pay for awesome insurance, plan to pay thousands of dollars. The cost of having a baby is ridiculous.
Tips to Save on Labor and Delivery Costs
Make sure to chose an in-network provider AND an in-network hospital.
This is my number one tip when choosing who and where you will deliver. Many insurance companies have preferred networks and physicians that they work with which will result in significant out-of-pocket savings. Out-of-network providers won’t charge more, but less will be covered by the insurance company. This is the part that you have most control over so do your research and chose wisely. To find out if your physician is in-network, call your insurance or visit their website to search for their list of providers.
Is your Anesthesiologist in-network too?
In a perfect world, if you chose a hospital that is in-network then all of the employees should be too right? It’s not always the case and I learned this one the hard way. Obviously, if you needed that epidural RIGHT NOW then you wouldn’t have much of an option to chose or decline. But, let’s say you had some time before you really needed that epidural, it wouldn’t hurt to ask or quickly look up whether the anesthesiologist(s) that evening are in-network. If you had a scheduled cesarean, you could also make it known to the hospital and your Obstetrician.
During your pregnancy, be sure that your lab work is in-network as well.
I’ve had three kids who were delivered by all different doctors. With my second son, my OB didn’t have their own lab services and outsourced them to another facility which I found out was out-of-network AFTER my bill had arrived. I was able to speak to my OB and could get the labs drawn at an in-network facility. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Write out a birth plan that includes the refusal of any unnecessary tests and procedures.
We all know how birth plans go. You write it up, type it out on pretty paper then when the time comes everything is thrown out the window. But, if you and your partner are serious then talk with your nurse and doctor about your choices. You have the right to refuse interventions. As an ICU RN, there are times when I go through the motions and draw routine labs because, well, that’s just what we do. I’m sure it can get that way in L&D too but you don’t need to be attached to the monitor all the time, and you don’t always need that bag or two of normal saline. If you have a low risk pregnancy and delivery, then ask your team what you can go without.
Try pain options other than an epidural.
If your’e going all natural, then all the power to you. But if not, try something for pain instead of the epidural if you can handle it. With my first born, I opted for the epidural as a way to ease tension on my body to allow for progression of labor. For my most recent baby, I opted for the epidural because I wimped out. I was 2cm dilated and not progressing but contractions were getting strong. I tried 100mg fentanyl but it did nothing except make me loopy. So I decided to get the epidural. I progressed much faster after that. Would you forgo that $400 epidural to lower the cost of having a baby?
Look into other birthing options.
Many women are now utilizing midwives and birth centers as alternatives due to the rising costs of healthcare in the hospital setting. If your up for it, have a home birth. The costs associated with this type of labor and delivery seem to range from $3-5K out of pocket.
Ask to room in with your baby.
Most hospitals have started to adapt this but if not, ask. Or you will be charged room and board for both you and baby separately. This was the case for me and my first born. This will lower the cost of having a baby in the end.
Ask for a itemized bill so that you can see every charge.
30-40% of hospital bills have errors. Just as things can become routine with doctors and nurses, they can become routine with billing and coding and insurance companies too. No one will really catch if you were charged for an extra bag of saline or another glucose check, but you might. Or maybe the room you stayed in was coded as an operating room instead of a standard room. Go through your bill with fine comb and don’t be afraid to fight the errors.
Make sure you know when your billing year ends. If your pregnancy lasts through the next year, you may have to restart the deductible.
Unfortunately my insurance didn’t allow this. I had to contribute to a new deductible each time a new billing year began. Otherwise, I would have only paid $3500 out of pocket instead of $6000. Some insurance companies will combine the pregnancy into one deductible so be sure to ask about that.
Another tip is ask your provider to invoice you AFTER the billing year so that all charges are within the same deductible year.
Contribute to your HSA or FSA.
One way to bring down costs is to contribute to a Health Savings Account. It’s tax free to deposit, tax free on the interest earned (if any), and tax free to withdraw (when used on qualified medical expenses). Triple dip in that savings pre-pregnancy so that you’ll be prepared when the time comes. Side note: this is also a great plan to have outside of having babies, especially as you get older.
Bring your own pump.
Chances are, there will be a lactation consult and she will advice you to pump to begin the process of supply and demand in an effort to get the milk flowing. However, if your baby is latching, having enough wet diapers and has stooled then you don’t need to pump. I used the hospital pump maybe 3 times and got drops out. I could have just brought my manual pump and avoided the fee.
Know how the hospital bills and what they typically charge for.
Some of the questions you can ask at your tour (if you take one) is how much will it be to eat at the hospital and will they provide your husband or S.O. a meal as well? Or is it all included in the entire room package? Also, many hospitals start the billing day after midnight. If you go into labor at 10pm, you may save a a few hundred bucks if you can hold out until after midnight. Call your doctor to see if you need to go in right away or if you can labor at home for a few hours or so.
**if you’re at high risk, please don’t hold out to save a few bucks. Yours and your baby’s health are much more important.