Childbirth is the number one reason American women visit the hospital, and it ain't cheap. In fact, it's getting more and more expensive. A new study published in Health Affairs found that the cost of having a baby with employer-sponsored health insurance increased by almost 50% in the past seven years.
The study evaluated "trends in cost-sharing for maternity care for women with employer-based health insurance plans, before and after the Affordable Care Act," which was signed into law in 2010. The study looked at over 657,061 women enrolled in large employer-sponsored health insurance plans who delivered babies between 2008 and 2015, as these plans tend to cover more than plans purchased by small businesses or individuals.
In 2008, women with employer-provided health insurance payed around $3,000 out of pocket on labor and delivery, but by 2015, that number had risen to $4,500. However, the actual cost billed for the birth remained the same during the seven-year period. The average woman makes $41,000 a year, or around $3,400 a month, which means that having a baby now costs more than a month's salary.
The results were a shock to the study's authors. "I was completely surprised that the phenomenon of having to pay something out of pocket for maternity care was almost universal," Michelle Moniz, an assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan and the study's lead author said.
The study authors cite the high rise in deductibles for the increase. The study found that the percentage of women with deductibles rose from 69% to 87% during this seven-year time period. "98% of people had some out-of-pocket cost by the end of the study," Moniz said.
Having children is expensive. "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," Moniz said.
According to the USDA, the average cost of caring for a child during its first year of life is $13,000. "The women in this study were all working, so we imagine that many would be planning for childcare costs when they returned to work," Moniz said.
On top of that, the expenses of having a child are often a surprise. "Most Americans have very little money set aside for an unexpected healthcare costs. 45% of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned," Moniz said. "For many women, the costs we noted in this study were not expected, which magnifies their impact."
The study only looked at women who were covered by insurance, but the cost of having a child without insurance is much, much higher. Having a child can cost up to around $32,000 without insurance. As if the pain of labor wasn't bad enough…
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