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Hospital childbirth costs soar despite transparency rule

Posted at 4:54 PM, Dec 23, 2022

It's expensive to raise kids in today's world, but there's a whole other cost for bringing them into it.  

Emily Taylor was charged $30,760.51 by the hospital after giving birth to her son Maddox in November 2020.  

"This is just overwhelming, really," she said. "It's funny looking back how stressful … I'm looking at this now and I'm like … no wonder I just threw my hands up. You have all of this in front of you, and it's too much."

Her insurance covered the majority, leaving Taylor and her husband to foot the remaining $1,096.26. 

But the bills didn’t stop there. 

"In May of 2022 — so my son's 18 months old — I get a $1,200 bill in the mail, and it was dated his birthday, when he was in the hospital," Taylor said. 

By this point, Taylor thought all her bills were paid off, so she reached out to the hospital with questions. But she didn't get any answers.  

"They said, 'Oh, these are Maddox's hospital charges.' And that was all I was told, so I asked for an itemized receipt, and all that was on there was 'hospital charges,'" Taylor said. 

SEE MORE: Hospitals Are Now Required To Post Costs Online, But Most Haven't

After inquiring about it, the hospital ended up waiving that charge.  

But there were plenty of others — like the $5,800 they were charged for the nursery they couldn't use because Taylor had tested positive for COVID — that remained. 

"'When he's born, will not be permitted to use the nursery.' Completely understandable.” 

But the hospital still charged her for it and refused to subtract it from the total.  

Taylor's story isn't uncommon.  

The average out-of-pocket cost for charges associated with pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care have reached almost $3,000 in the U.S. — and that's if you have insurance. But it wasn't always this way.  

"Any little thing from a tissue, to a Tylenol, to a woman's induction, to the use of a baby's heart monitor — all these things are being upcoded and charged to the maximum profitability of the hospitals, whereas before it used to be a blanket price," Patient Rights Advocate Founder Cynthia Fisher said.

SEE MORE: The Cost Of Having COVID

Childbirth costs have been rising since the early 2000s. Experts point to a lack of price transparency as the key reason. 

"As long as hospitals and insurance companies are hiding prices, then the consumer is harmed because they can charge whatever they want. And by today's runaway costs of health care, the greed has run amok," Fisher said.

In 2021, the price transparency rule was implemented, requiring hospitals to post the prices of procedures, like childbirth, online. But it's estimated only 16% of hospitals are following suit. 

Until they all abide by the rule, experts say hospitals are still obligated to provide that information to patients who call and ask. That way, they can guarantee the price ahead of time and avoid a pileup of surprise bills later on. 

After her own experience, Taylor's main advice is double-check every charge. 

"Go through, line by line. Know what you're being charged and be able, if there's an issue, to speak up for yourself," she said.

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