The Cost of Giving Birth

When I was preparing for the arrival of my first baby, I was well aware that providing for this child for the next 18 or so years would cost me thousands upon thousands of dollars. What I didn’t know was exactly how much money it would cost to physically bring my baby into the world.

As it was pointed out in a recent New York Times article about revealing health care costs, patients rarely have access to how much medical treatment costs before the expenses are incurred.

Tina Rosenberg writes:

“Unlike everything else we buy, when we purchase a medical treatment, surgery or diagnostic test, we buy blind. We do not know the cost of health procedures before we buy. Only sellers, and not buyers, know the price. If prices are secret, patients can’t comparison shop.”

This was certainly the case when I began researching labor and delivery costs in Colorado. I knew roughly how much my insurance covered, but I had no idea what the hospital would actually charge. Now that my baby has been safely delivered, I thought I’d help demystify the costs of giving birth by sharing what I was charged. And, since costs differ by hospital and type of birth, I’ve compiled the labor and delivery costs from several other Colorado mothers.

NOTE: It’s important to note that insurance plans vary widely and insurance companies negotiate costs with hospitals before a patient is billed. The amounts listed below as “billed to insurance” are the original costs sent to the insurance company from the hospital.

Here is how my expenses broke down:

Hospital: Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, CO
Delivery Type: Induced, normal delivery
Duration: 4 days in 2013
Room and Board and Miscellaneous Costs for Me: $19,250
Room and Board and Miscellaneous Costs for Baby: $3,392
Anesthesia: $4,500
Lab Work: $815
TOTAL: $27,957 billed to insurance
OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSE: $600

Abigail:

Hospital: St. Francis Medical Center in Colorado Springs
Delivery Type: Normal delivery
Duration: 2 days in 2013
Room and Board and Miscellaneous Costs for Mom: $5,981
Room and Board and Miscellaneous Costs for Baby: $2,908
Pharmacy: $1,140
Anesthesia: $628
TOTAL: $10,657 billed to insurance
OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSE: $1,447

Amy:

Hospital: Platte Valley Medical Center in Brighton, CO
Delivery Type: C-section
Duration: 4 days in 2010
Room and Board for Mom: $32,288
Room and Board for Baby: $4,428
Anesthesia: $2,660
Hospital Miscellaneous: $3,120
Surgical Fee: $2,500
Lab Work: $188
TOTAL: $45,184 billed to insurance
OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSE: $0 (Completely covered by insurance)

Angie:

Hospital: Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, CO
Delivery Type: C-section
Year: 2012
Total Costs for Mom: $30,907
Total Costs for Baby: $5,361
TOTAL: $36,268 billed to insurance
OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSE: $1,829

Anonymous:

Hospital: Platte Valley Medical Center in Brighton, CO
Delivery Type: C-section
Year: 2009
OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSE: $5,000 (the out-of-pocket maximum in her plan) plus $250 hospital co-pay.

Mallory:

Hospital: Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, CO
Delivery Type: Normal, natural (no drugs were administered) delivery
Year: 2012
Room and Board and Miscellaneous Costs for Mom: $15,899
Room and Board and Miscellaneous Costs for Baby: $4,125
TOTAL: $20,024 billed to insurance
OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSE: $2,714

Nicole:

Hospital: Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, CO
Delivery Type: C-section
Duration: 3 days in 2010
Room and Board and Miscellaneous Costs for Mom and Baby: $21,835
Anesthesia: $2,619
TOTAL: $24,454 billed to insurance
OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSE: $1,400

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Co-pays and out-of-pocket maximums are usually separate for mom and baby. So, if your insurance has a $200 hospital co-pay, plan on paying $200 for you and $200 for the baby.
  • Pay attention to your insurance plan year. Many mothers will begin their prenatal care in one calendar year and give birth in the next. This means that you may meet your deductible while you are pregnant, but have to meet it again in the year you give birth.
  • Any patient at any hospital, past or present, can call the hospital and request a Universal Bill. The Universal Bill provides a breakdown of the charges by revenue code (labs, room and board, etc.), the total charges before insurance, and the patient liabilities.

What do you think about this price comparison? Does the differences in cost and out-of-pocket expense surprise you?

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