MONEY Health Care

Here’s What It Costs to Actually Become a Mother

woman holding newborn in hospital wearing hospital gown
JGI/Tom Grill—Getty Images

The price tag for childbirth can be painful.

Children are priceless, but in the United States, giving birth to one is far from free. When American mothers take their newborns home from the hospital, big bills can follow.

The average doctor charges for a vaginal delivery with no complications in the U.S. is $3,035, according to data from FAIR Health, a health care nonprofit that keeps a national database of insurance claims. That includes the cost of routine care before and after the birth (but not tests like ultra sounds or amnio). If you want an epidural (which, let’s be real, many women do), that’s another $2,132 on average. Prices vary considerably depending on where you live. The average cost of a C-Section nationwide is $3,382, plus $1,646 for an epidural, FAIR Health found.

But that’s just for your doctors—not the hospital. In a separate study published in the journal Health Affairs last year, researchers found that the cost of a hospital stay to give birth ranged from $1,189 to $11,986, and that was for what were considered low-risk deliveries.

To be clear, your actual out-of-pocket costs will vary considerably depending on your health insurance policy.

Most people with insurance first have to fulfill a deductible—that is, pay a certain amount out of pocket before insurance covers the bill. On average, employees in traditional PPO family plans need to pay $2,012 as a family or $944 per person to meet their deductible, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

After that, your insurer may still require you to chip in. You may owe co-pays or a percentage of the bill, called co-insurance. The average hospital co-pay is $308 per admission, and $281 per day. The average co-insurance rate is 19% of the bill, KFF found.

Charges can add up, particularly if you have complications. Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act puts a cap on what you’ll pay for in-network services. The legal out-of-pocket maximum is $13,700 for family plans — though your insurer may set an even lower cap.

Your medical claims can also vary depending on where you live. FAIR Health found the average cost of vaginal delivery ranged from $1,614 in Mobile, Ala. to $9,279 in the Bronx, N.Y. You can find typical prices in your area with FAIR Health’s Consumer Cost Lookup tool.

If you’re insured, the best way to estimate what you’ll owe is to check if your health plan has a price transparency tool (77% of large employers now offer them, according to Mercer). That should tell you what you can expect to pay with specific providers in your network.

If you’re not insured, you’ll have to wait until the next Obamacare open enrollment period to buy health coverage, or until you have your baby — whichever comes first. Having a child qualifies you for a special open enrollment period, but just being pregnant does not.

 

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