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The average cost of childbirth in America is $4500 — that's more than what most women earn per month

The cost of having a baby in the United States has skyrocketed recently, increasing by almost 50% in 7 years.

The average cost of childbirth in America is $4500 — that's more than what most women earn per month
Representative Image Source: Getty Images

A new study published in the January 2020 edition of the academic journal Health Affairs reveals the reality of giving birth in America. The cost of having a baby in the United States has skyrocketed recently, increasing by almost 50% in 7 years. The study, that looked at over 650,000 women with employer-provided health insurance, discovered that the average new mom spent $4,500 out-of-pocket on labor and delivery in 2015—the most recent year data are available. Meanwhile, the typical new mom paid just over $3,000 of her own money for the same in 2008.

Representative Image Source: Getty Images

 

"I don't know a lot of patients who have this kind of funding lying around," Michelle Moniz—the study's lead author and an assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan—told CBS News. The study indicates that there has been a 50% increase in childbirth costs between 2008 and 2015, which is over three times the rate of inflation in the same time period. "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," added Moniz, a practicing physician.

Representative Image Source: Getty Images

 

In addition to the exorbitant rise in childbirth costs, the study also shines a light on the disparity between the average woman's monthly income and the cost of giving birth. A typical woman spends more than she makes in a month on the birth of one child. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the average full-time worker in the country earns just over $41,000 a year i.e. about $3,400 a month.

Representative Image Source: Getty Images

 

Moreover, the women who participated in the study more or less represent the best-case scenario as they are covered by large employer-sponsored health insurance plans, which are known to be more generous, than plans offered by small businesses or those purchased individually. Just about half of U.S. births are covered by such plans. Moniz and her coauthors found the rise in out-of-pocket costs between 2008 and 2015 "striking" as there haven't been any major changes in the standardized cost of maternity care in this time frame.

Representative Image Source: Getty Images

 

While the actual cost billed for the birth mostly stayed steady over the 7 year period, it is the proportion of overall maternity costs paid by patients that appeared to jump. The typical deductible payment rose from just over $1,500 in 2008 to almost $2,500 in 2015—marking a jump from about 12% to roughly 20%, Moniz explained. "I was completely surprised that the phenomenon of having to pay something out of pocket for maternity care was almost universal. 98% of people had some out-of-pocket cost by the end of the study," she said.



 

 



 

 



 

 

The study aims to dispell the belief that it's cheaper to have a baby under the Affordable Care Act which mandated coverage for maternity benefits. Speaking to HuffPost, Moniz remarked, "Folks seem to think, 'Well, the Affordable Care Act requires coverage for maternity care, so everything should be fine.' But actually, large, employer-based health plans — which are the ones in this study — are required to cover maternity care. However, plans are allowed to impose cost-sharing: co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles."



 

 



 

 



 

 

"It’s difficult even for me as a clinician and as somebody who does research in this space to understand and to be able to obtain health care costs. It’s just very complex and often not transparent. So I think that’s a very challenging ask for patients," she added. Moniz hopes the study will help expectant women have a better idea of childbirth medical expenses while also gaining traction with lawmakers who can push for policies that'll reduce out-of-pocket spending on the same. "Our hope is that policymakers take note now and change the situation. We want every family to get off to the best start in life, and this is an irremediable barrier," she said.

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