It Shouldn’t Be This Expensive to Have a Baby

The average, out-of-pocket cost of maternity care has reportedly risen to over $4,500 — for people with employer-sponsored health insurance. Photo: JASPER JACOBS/AFP via Getty Images

The average, out-of-pocket cost of giving birth has reportedly risen to more than $4,500 — and that’s for people with insurance.

A new study, published in Health Affairs, looked at maternity care claims filed by 657,061 women — women who had employer-sponsored health plans, and who chose to give birth in hospitals — between 2008 and 2015. The goal was to see how the Affordable Care Act changed cost-sharing models for insurers and customers. Since 2014, the ACA has obligated insurance companies to help cover maternity care, a rarity up to that point. But although the net cost of those services did not change much within the study’s seven-year time frame, the amount patients paid rose from $3,069 in 2008 to $4,569 in 2015. For cesarean sections specifically, the financial burden was even more extreme, up from $3,364 in 2008 to $5,161 in 2015. That’s compared to vaginal births, the average out-of-pocket cost of which escalated from $2,910 to $4,314 during the study’s window.

“$4,500 is not a small amount. Few of my patients have that kind of money readily available for an unexpected healthcare expense,” Michelle Moniz, the study’s lead author, a practicing OB-GYN, and a researcher at the University of Michigan, told Gizmodo. “Moreover, these costs are incurred at a time when patients are already thinking about how they are going to buy a car seat, a crib; how they’ll afford childcare costs.”

The probable reason for the jump: The ACA’s relative lack of restrictions on things like co-pays and deductibles. Insurers can sneakily shift the financial onus onto customers by charging them more upfront, even as preventive services like mammograms and pap smears remain free.

“The increasing maternal health costs burdening families over time is concerning. Research tells us that out-of-pocket costs for healthcare are often associated with skipped care,” Moniz said in a statement, noting that delaying or forgoing maternity care can have bleak health outcomes. “There is strong rationale for policymakers to consider policies to protect the average consumer.”

While various Democratic candidates seem to believe people really, really love their employer-sponsored health insurance plans, the data says that, for many people, even these are becoming untenably expensive across the board. And when you consider that the median American household has about $4,800 in a savings account — at least by one study’s calculations — and the slurry of state and federal laws attempting to limit the resources that keep planned pregnancy rates low, our health care future becomes even more ominous. Simply put, it just shouldn’t be this expensive to have a child.

It Shouldn’t Be This Expensive to Have a Baby