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The Ridiculously High Cost of Giving Birth

Baby's feet
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Delivering a baby is probably the most routine medical procedure on the planet. So then why is it so freaking expensive?

We’re not just talking about parents without insurance. Even people with health insurance are getting gouged in a major way.

According to a recent study by Truven, out-of-pocket costs for having a baby rose fourfold from 2004 to 2010. Women with insurance cough up about $3,400 to have a baby. Two decades earlier, they would have paid nothing, or a pittance for a private room with TV.

Health insurers are shouldering a heftier load as well. Over that same time period, costs for a vaginal birth and newborn care rose 49 percent to $30,000, while cesareans rose 41 percent to $50,000.

It gets worse: Perhaps as a result of these rising expenses, more and more health insurance companies are refusing to cover childbirth. In 2011, 62 percent of women covered by private health plans not obtained through an employer did not have maternity coverage. And those who did have coverage were nonetheless facing higher co-payments and deductibles.

The reason for these skyrocketing costs? It’s not because moms are enjoying cutting-edge medical procedures or sophisticated new technologies. In fact, the treatment we get in the U.S. is about the same as it is in other developed countries. “It’s not primarily that we get a different bundle of services when we have a baby,” Gerard Anderson, an economist at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, told the New York Times. “It’s that we pay individually for each service and pay more for the services we receive.”

In other words, the complicated state of our health care system is the culprit. The take-home lesson? Whether you have health insurance or not, no one is safe. If you want a kid, start saving accordingly.

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