Cost of Giving Birth Varies 10-Fold From $3,000 to $30,000

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Introducing a baby to the world could cost just as much as sending a child to college. The price of giving birth at a hospital varies from $3,000 to $30,000, according to a new study. The report, from researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, found that women giving birth in the state were charged anywhere from $3,296 to $37,227 for a vaginal delivery, depending on the hospital. For a C-section? Expect a bill between $8,312 and nearly $71,000. 

The study calls attention to the dire need for improvement in the country's health care system, though it only focuses on California hospitals. Researchers say unlike other industries, the way health care is priced is "notoriously opaque, making it difficult for patients to act as educated, price-comparing consumers."  

There isn't a clear-cut reason as to why there's such a disparity in costs for the average patient. Hospitals charged significantly more in areas that had higher costs of living, if they were for-profit, or had a patient population that was severely ill. Researchers used data from nearly 110,000 women with private medical insurance. They accounted for elements such as the mother’s age and length of stay, hospital characteristics, and market factors.  

Still, institutional and market-level factors only explained 35 to 36 percent of the variations in prices. And insurance? The estimated discounted prices insurers paid totaled an average 37 percent of the original hospital bill. Hospitals billed $1.3 billion in “excess charges,” the difference between charges and reimbursements, the study found.  

"This is unfortunately the appalling state of affairs of health care in the United States," says lead author Renee Hsia. 

Paying for quality, affordable maternity care in the U.S. pales in comparison to prices abroad, where new mothers can recuperate in hospitals for nearly a week and conventional deliveries cost an average $4,000. 

Raising a child in America can cost $241,080 — and that's not even adjusting for inflation. You're going to be dishing out the dollars for the rest of your life, so can't hospitals cut you a break for one of the most painful experiences you'll have to endure? Just ask these guys:

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