Astronomical C-Section Bill Shows Exactly What's Wrong With the Way Hospitals Charge for Birth


Having a baby is an exciting, joyous time -- and then you get the bill. While the wonder of the new life you just brought into the world doesn't necessarily disappear, it's a shock for most people to see just what that wonder costs in real, black-and-white numbers. It's even more shocking when you start reading line by line and realize you have no earthly idea what some of those charges even are. That's why a new parent shared a breakdown of his pre-insurance hospital costs after a C-section to start a much-needed conversation about what we actually pay for when we give birth.

  • The C-section bill totals $41,158.50 and is broken down into sections: medications, blood and lab work, doctor fees, and hospital fees.

    The Reddit user posted that he used an online tool to turn the amounts into a chart so people could clearly see how much money goes toward each component of labor and delivery. "I'm not even sure what some of the charges are, like 'PT Convenience' or 'Nursing,'" he wrote. "Also, we were in the 'Recovery Room' (which was just a bed behind a curtain in an open floor setting) for three hours and billed nearly $3,000 USD."

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    The user notes this chart shows the total amount billed to the insurance company, and doesn't reflect what will be covered by insurance or paid out of pocket. It also doesn't include $1,800 the user had to pay when his wife was discharged. "They tried to charge me around $3,500, if I remember correctly," he wrote. "But I insisted on paying 'the lowest payment accepted' at the time, which was ~$1,800."

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  • $41,158.50? For real?

  • Upon seeing the massive bill, a few people offered insight as to what some of the "mystery charges" could be.

    As one pointed out, the "nursing" charge was probably for the in-hospital lactation consultants who come by each room. But others chimed in to say those nursing consultations usually only take about "15 minutes, tops" so what's the extra money for, and why aren't the nurses and lactation consultants paid more if this is what hospitals charge?

  • Most people were just as confused as the original poster and shared their own stories of navigating absurd hospital bills.

    Like a lot of us, this person received random bills "for months" after having a son via C-section. Each one had different amounts and different items that were owed to different providers.

  • Some even claimed their hospitals charged them for things they didn't use, like an epidural during a natural birth.

  • Or, they were charged astronomical amounts of money for simple things like numbing spray.

  • A few people even said to call and refute the charges because hospitals "add things on and hope nobody notices."

  • Surprisingly, $41,000 is actually LOWER than the average bill for a C-section in the US.

    A 2013 investigative report by the New York Times showed the average total cost of a C-section is around $50,000. Commercial insurance typically covers anywhere from half to two-thirds of the cost. But perhaps the most disturbing thing the report focused on was the idea that many medical items and procedures don't even have a "set cost" in the first place.

    Renee Martin, a mom who spoke with the New York Times, said that when she called her hospital asking for an estimate of labor costs, they gave her "a range of $4,000 to $45,000." She said, "It was unreal. I was like, How could you not know this? You're a hospital ... I feel like I'm in a used-car lot."

  • Maternity care is more expensive in the US than in other developed countries, and it's because of itemized bills like the one shared on Reddit.

    As the New York Times points out, hospitals in almost all other developed countries charge a flat fee for births, but that isn't how it works here:

    "Only in the United States is pregnancy generally billed item by item, a practice that has spiraled in the past decade, doctors say. No item is too small. Charges that 20 years ago were lumped together and covered under the general hospital fee are now broken out, leading to more bills and inflated costs. There are separate fees for the delivery room, the birthing tub and each night in a semiprivate hospital room, typically thousands of dollars. Even removing the placenta can be coded as a separate charge."

    So while the problem may not go as far as hospitals adding things on and "hoping nobody notices," as one commenter stated, there absolutely is an issue stemming from these line-item charges and the ways insurance companies and patients are left to make sense of confusing bills and negotiate huge fees for even the most basic items.

    If you've ever looked at your hospital bill and wondered why it's so huge, this may be the reason. You aren't alone in your confusion, and you certainly wouldn't be alone in thinking there has to be a better way.