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Royal Birth Cost Half As Much As An Average American Birth

Submitted by on July 24, 2013 – 9:22 amNo Comment

The as-yet-unnamed royal baby was delivered in the posh Lindo Wing of London’s private St. Mary’s Hospital. The accommodations include satellite TV, a daily newspaper, and extensive food and wine options. And at an estimated $15,000, the Duchess of Cambridge‘s delivery could cost half as much as that of an average American woman. What a bargain!

Back in June, Elisabeth Rosenthal of the New York Times reported on the growing costs of pregnancy in the US, and how much higher these costs are than in the rest of the developing world.

From 2004 to 2010, the prices that insurers paid for childbirth — one of the most universal medical encounters — rose 49 percent for vaginal births and 41 percent for Caesarean sections in the United States, with average out-of-pocket costs rising fourfold,according to a recent report by Truven that was commissioned by three health care groups. The average total price charged for pregnancy and newborn care was about $30,000 for a vaginal delivery and $50,000 for a C-section, with commercial insurers paying out an average of $18,329 and $27,866, the report found.

And that’s if the woman has insurance which covers maternity, or has insurance at all. The article notes that  ”62 percent of women in the United States covered by private plans that were not obtained through an employer lacked maternity coverage.” (Why? Is having a reproductive system a pre-existing condition?)

Rosenthal also notes that in almost every other industrialized nation in the world, medical maternity costs are significantly lower, and are entirely (or almost entirely) covered by the state if the mother does not use a private hospital. She attributes much of this disparity to the US’s unique line item billing system. In other countries, maternity treatment is usually covered by a flat rate package deal.

As a result of the itemized billing, mothers are finding some confounding charges on their bills. Several comments on the Times article noted being billed twice for “room and board,” once for the mother, and once for the child, even if they shared a room and the mother breastfed. In addition, basic medical supplies that would once be included in a “facility fee” are now being charged separately, sometimes in addition to the facility fees. As a result, clients can end up getting double or even triple billed for the same items.

What’s more, the charges themselves are often wildly inflated. The Times article highlights a $20 charge for a “splash” of disinfectant which sells for $2.59 a bottle at Walgreens.

Rosenthal’s article lines up with a groundbreaking investigation into American healthcare published in Time magazine last March. In it, Stephen Brill found that byzantine itemized billing across medical fields was often inflating health care costs hundreds of percent, even when rates were negotiated down by insurers, all while billing basic items and billing items multiple times. He attributed much of the problem to the “chargemaster,” the list of prices all hospitals maintain; Brill found that most hospitals could not explain how the chargemaster prices were determined in the first place.

What do you think about maternity costs in the US? Let us know in the Comments.

[via The Washington Post]

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