The High Cost of Having a Baby in America

January 8, 2020

The average delivery now costs more than $4,500—even with insurance.

For women in many developed countries, having the baby—not paying for it—is the hard part. Giving birth in Finland, for example, will set you back a little less than $60. But in the U.S., the average new mother with insurance will pay more than $4,500 for her labor and delivery, a new study in Health Affairs has found.

For the study, researchers at the University of Michigan looked at 657,061 American women who had health insurance through their jobs and who gave birth between 2008 and 2015. (All costs were adjusted for inflation, and 2015 was the most recent year for which data were available.) They analyzed the insurance claims data for the cost of all the treatments and services the women used during the year prior to their delivery, during the delivery itself, and for three months after—to account for any health services that might have affected their pregnancy outcomes.

Vaginal deliveries, the researchers found, cost women an average of about $4,314 out of pocket in 2015, up from $2,910 in 2008. The out-of-pocket cost of a cesarean birth, meanwhile went up from $3,364 to $5,161. The $4,500, meanwhile, was the average for all deliveries in 2015.

“I don’t have many patients who have that kind of cash just lying around,” says Michelle Moniz, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Michigan’s Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital and the lead author of the study. “I sometimes see patients struggling to afford their health care and sometimes choosing not to obtain health care because they can’t afford it.”

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