PhotoIf you're expecting a new arrival in your family, you'll no doubt be shopping around for the best price on a crib, car seat and other necessities. A new study suggests you may also want to shop around for the most affordable hospital. 

The study by Yale School of Medicine researchers found that the cost of having a baby can vary by almost $10,000 depending on which hospital is chosen.

Childbirth is the leading cause of hospital admission in the United States, but there has been little research on the cost of delivery in hospitals across the country. To seek some answers, the Yale research team, led by Xiao Xu, an assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine, studied data from the 2011 Nationwide Inpatient Sample of 463 hospitals across the country. 

The team found that there is a large variation in the average estimated hospital facility cost per maternity stay.

"The average estimated facility cost per maternity stay ranged from $1,189 to $11,986 with a 2.2-fold difference between the 10th and 90th percentile," said Xu. "Our results could inform discussions on potential cost-saving opportunities."

Complications = higher costs

Xu and her team also found that hospitals with higher rates of cesarean delivery or serious maternal complications had significantly higher costs.

However, adjustments for conventional hospital characteristics, such as teaching status, urban/rural location, volume of births, and the cesarean section rates, only explained a small proportion of the wide variation in estimated hospital facility costs for low-risk childbirths.

"Hospital practices might be an important contributor to the variation in costs, and there may be opportunities for cost reduction," said Xu. "These may include safely reducing cesarean deliveries, increasing the coordination of care, and emphasizing the value of care through new payment and delivery systems.

The study is published in the July issue of the journal Health Affairs.


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