Having a baby often costs consumers over $5,000, study finds

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Researchers say consumers with private health insurance could still face high medical bills

A new study conducted by researchers from Michigan Medicine explored the health care costs associated with women giving birth. 

According to their findings, there are several reasons why consumers could be burdened with thousands of dollars in medical bills following the birth of a child -- even when covered by private health insurance. The team found that when infants require extra medical care or women deliver via C-section, it could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. 

“Many privately insured families believe that if they have health insurance, they’re protected from the costs of childbirth hospitalizations. Unfortunately, this is simply not true for many families, particularly if their baby needs NICU care,” said researcher Dr. Kao-Ping Chua. “Having a healthy baby is expensive enough given the costs of diapers, childcare, and baby equipment. Adding a $10,000 hospital bill on top of this can devastate some families,” Chua added.

The cost of childbirth

The researchers analyzed private insurance claims from across the country and focused their study on nearly 400,000 childbirths. The team looked at how much of the process was covered by insurance and what consumers had to pay out of pocket. 

While health insurance covered a portion of childbirth, the majority of the participants in the study were left with more than $3,000 in medical bills. When women delivered vaginally and their babies were healthy, delivery and hospital costs were nearly $3,100. 

As the cases became more specialized, the out-of-pocket costs increased. Medical bills reached nearly $5,000 -- and in some cases as much as $10,000 -- when infants spent time in the NICU. Similarly, women that delivered via C-section had nearly $4,000 in medical bills. 

The researchers explained that many in-hospital services for infants are necessary for overall health and wellness. Moving forward, the team hopes that insurance companies consider ways to reduce these costs for consumers so that a significant financial burden can be alleviated.

“Maternal and childbirth hospitalizations are essential to families’ health and well-being, with some babies needing longer stays because of complex or unexpected medical conditions,” said researcher Dr. Michelle Moniz. “These services are vital to ensuring the best possible outcomes for moms and newborns. We should be looking at ways to improve childbirth coverage to avoid sending families home from the hospital with thousands of dollars in debt.” 

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