The cost of having a baby increased by almost 50% in 7 years
Having a baby in the U.S. can be costly, leaving many families with high medical bills, even when they’re insured. New research has shown that the cost of giving birth in America for those with employer-sponsored health insurance has actually increased significantly due to “cost-sharing” and other factors, at an alarming rate.
The new study, published in the January 2020 edition of the journal Health Affairs, looked at more than 650,000 women who delivered babies in the United States between 2008 to 2015, evaluating “trends in cost-sharing for maternity care for women with employer-based health insurance plans, before and after the Affordable Care Act.” What they found was that those with employer-provided health insurance, the average patient spent around $4,500 out-of-pocket on labor and delivery in 2015 (the most recent year available), and in 2008, that same group of insured women (all enrolled in large employer-sponsored plans) paid just over $3,000.
“I don’t know a lot of patients who have this kind of funding lying around,” said Michelle Moniz, an assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan and the study’s lead author. “These expenses are coming at a time when most of my patients are thinking of everything else on their baby list — a crib, a car seat, everything they need to keep their newborn safe — and they aren’t expecting a bill like this.”
What’s more, for women covered under these sorts of plans (which cover around half of all U.S. births and pays out more than most individual or small business plans) now officially costs more than the average woman earns in a month. The average full-time worker in America makes just over $41,000 a year, or around $3,400 a month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Researchers also found that high costs of labor and delivery remain despite the changes put into effect with the Affordable Care Act, which required insurance provided by employers to cover maternity services. Even so, insurance companies “pass on certain costs” to patients via co-payments and deductibles. The typical deductible payment during this same time period rose from just over $1,500 to nearly $2,500, while coinsurance rose about $300.
“I was completely surprised that the phenomenon of having to pay something out of pocket for maternity care was almost universal,” said Moniz. “98% of people had some out-of-pocket cost by the end of the study.”
Remember, this is the average cost for women covered by insurance. Childbirth costs vary by state, but for women without insurance, those costs can skyrocket to around $32,000, according to The Guardian.
“Most Americans have very little money set aside for an unexpected healthcare costs. 45% of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned,” Moniz told Romper. “For many women, the costs we noted in this study were not expected, which magnifies their impact.” change in the way the U.S. manages birth.
Moniz is hopeful her study will shed light on the high cost of having a baby and protecting women in America. “The U.S. is the only high-income country with a rising maternal mortality rate — all our peer countries have declining maternal mortality rates,” said Moniz. “We need policies that reduce or eliminate patients’ out-of-pocket costs for maternity care. These are essential health services that every family should be able to access, without going into debt.”