While a woman is preparing for giving birth, one worry she doesn’t want to have is about the cost of delivery. Insured women are finding that some policies do not cover maternity care, services that most often do not have a clear price and must be negotiated with hospitals to get any dollar amount. Many women are getting this sticker shock in the U.S., where delivery charges have tripled since 1996. Maternity and newborn care is the biggest category of hospital payout for insurers and state Medicaid programs. American women with normal pregnancies get more of everything, necessary or not. In 2011, 62% of women covered by private plans lacked maternity coverage. Women with coverage have higher co-pays and deductibles. Prices for childbirth rose nearly 50% from 2004 to 2010, with out-of-pocket costs increasing four times. American women with insurance will pay an average of $3,400 out of pocket.
Ireland guarantees free maternity care, whereas Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands top out at about $4,000. French mothers stay in the hospital nearly a week. American charges that used to be lumped together are now broken down meaning more bills and inflated costs. Add up all the bills and the total is startling. Other developed countries provide a flat fee to hospitals and doctors, and women have a wide array of choices. Expenses are also on the rise because mothers are older now and obstetricians have the highest malpractice insurance, yet less than 25% of payments go to the obstetrician. More than 30% of American women have C-sections or induced labor – far higher than those of other developed countries at rates higher than deemed necessary.
Women with the best insurance can still end up with high prices. Qualifying for assistance like Medicaid or other subsidies is hard when employed. Couples must budget their finances well to brace for future bills. Some hospitals are now offering all-inclusive pregnancy packages, which include standard hospital, doctors’, and testing fees for about $5000. Under Obamacare, new insurance plans must include maternity coverage, but does not explain what services are included. The states cover more than 40% of births nationally under the Medicaid system, under which patients pay an average of $9,000 for a vaginal birth and $13,000 for C-section delivery. Insured women are still getting the necessary prenatal care, despite the rising out-of-pocket costs.
Rosenthal, Elisabeth. “American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World.” Health. The New York Times, 30 June 2013. Web. 26 Oct 2014.