• The average cost of a hospital delivery  in America is $9,775, the highest in the world
  • In France, delivery costs $3,541, and in  the UK it is just $2,641
  • Many industrialized countries offer flat  fees for prenatal care and delivery, but in America, there is a separate charge  for everything from a blood test to removing the  placenta

By  Margot Peppers

PUBLISHED: 14:53 EST, 1 July  2013 |  UPDATED: 14:53  EST, 1 July 2013

The cost of a hospital delivery in America  has tripled since 1996, averaging out at $9,775 for a vaginal delivery – the  highest cost of any country in the world, according to a new  analysis.

A report by Truven Health Analytics for the  New York Times found that the average total price for pregnancy as well as newborn care is  about $30,000 for vaginal delivery, and $50,000 for a C-section, with insurers  paying out an average of $18,329 and $27,866 respectively.

What’s more, America is uniquely expensive  when it comes to childbirth; in other developed countries, delivery is often  cheap or even free, and post-birth care is significantly more extensive.

Pregnancy 

The price of pregnancy: The cost of giving birth in a  hospital in America has tripled since 1996, averaging at $9,775 – the highest  cost of any industrialized country in the world

Even insured women in the U.S. pay  out-of-pocket costs of $3,400 on average, compared to little or nothing 20 years  ago.

The difference in the cost of pregnancy and  delivery between the U.S. and other industrialized countries is  staggering.

In America, the average cost of a C-section  delivery is $15,041, compared to $6,441 in France and just $4,435 in the United  Kingdom.

And while pregnancy and childbirth is less  expensive in other countries, that’s not to say it is any less  comprehensive.

Indeed, in Ireland, where women receive the  same amount of high-tech maternity care as Americans, delivery is free at public  hospitals. Women here can also opt to pay a fee for private  deliveries.

 

In the U.S., insurance is supposed to cover  childbirth, but the report found that 62per cent of women covered by private  plans did not have coverage for prenatal costs.

One issue, says Gerard Anderson, an economist  at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, is that Americans ‘pay  individually for each service and pay more for the services we  receive’.

In other countries, like Denmark, for  instance, women are often charged a single fee for all the services  provided  during childbirth – from blood tests to an epidural.

‘If a woman wants acupuncture, an epidural or  birth in water,  that’s what she’ll get,’ said Charlotte Overgaard, an assistant  professor at Aalborg University in Denmark.

‘In Denmark, if a  woman wants acupuncture, an epidural or birth in water, that’s what she’ll  get’

But in the U.S., there is a separate fee for  everything from an ultrasound to an  epidural to an extra night in a private hospital room.

Indeed, one woman told the New York Times  that she ‘decided to be more assertive about holding down costs’ when becoming  pregnant with her second child.

She only had one ultrasound, kept a list of  all the medications she received, received no anesthesia and had a midwife  deliver her baby. But when the bill came, it was still over $6,000.

‘Even removing the placenta can be coded as a  separate charge,’ notes the New York Times.

And paying higher hospital fees does not  ensure better health care; a recent Save the Children report found that America  has one of the highest rates  of birth and infant death in the  world.

Cost of normal delivery 

Separate charges: In America, services like an epidural,  an ultrasound, a blood test, and even placenta removal cost a fee. Many other  countries instead charge a flat fee for prenatal care and birth

C-section costProblems: The factors that contribute to America’s  higher cost are excessive testing and ultrasounds, overly ‘medicalized’  deliveries and a tendency not to use midwives

 

Post-birth care for mothers also pales in  comparison to other countries like France, where women  often remain in hospital  for several days after birth, recovering and  learning how to  breastfeed.

In America, however, they are discharged  after one or two days, since most insurance only covers that which is considered  medically necessary.

Another factor that makes delivery less  expensive in other countries is the frequency of midwives, who are used by only  eight per cent of Americans.

By contrast, 68per cent of births in Britain  and 45per cent of births in  the Netherlands are attended by a midwife, who  perform simple deliveries, do most of the prenatal examinations, and, according  to the New  York Times, can charge less than $325 for an 11-hour  delivery.

‘Making women choose  whether they want to pay $1,000 for an epiduraldidn’t seem right’

Americans also tend to have a preference for  ‘medicalized’ deliveries involving IVs, anesthesia, and more ultrasounds than  may be necessary, all of which add up.

What’s more, more than 30per cent of American  women have C-sections or drug-induced labor – a far higher percentage than other  developed countries.

This frequency of C-sections is also ‘far  above rates that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists considers necessary’.

 

Some hospitals are trying to combat high  costs by introducing all-inclusive flat rates for pregnancy, much like those in  other developed countries.

At Maricopa Medical Center, for example, a  public hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, Dr Dean Coonrod charges uninsured patients  a flat fee of $3,850 for vaginal delivery with or without an epidural, and  $5,600 for a planned C-section.

‘Making women choose during labor whether you  want to pay $1,000 for an epidural, that didn’t seem right,’ said Dr  Coonrod.

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