How Much For One Labor and Delivery, Please?

When it comes to the price of labor and delivery, hospitals vary wildly, determined a new California study. We’re talking differences by the tens of thousands of dollars–and that’s without a hospital wing remodel a la Beyonce.

Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco found that an uncomplicated vaginal birth could cost anywhere from $3,296 to $37,277 in the Golden State, and $8,312 to $70,908 for a standard C-section, according to an article on the study in Bloomberg Businessweek. The reasoning for these wild price fluctuations? That’s apparently anyone’s guess. The study, published in the medical journal BMJ Open, couldn’t account for much of the variation in price between hospitals.

The good news: These prices don’t reflect the discounted rate that insurers negotiate with hospitals. The bad news: As insurers try to offset their rising costs by charging consumers higher premiums and raising deductibles, new parents could be getting stuck with bigger bills after their baby arrives. As for those parents without insurance… here’s hoping your hospital falls on the low end of the pricing curve.

This study does make me curious how much my hospital will charge for the birth of our baby. I’m always nervous to open invoices from my doctor’s office. Although we have decent medical insurance through my husband’s work, we still have a deductible in the thousands which can lead to some pretty large bills. And it feels like such a crapshoot to know exactly what is covered by insurance

A sign in my doctor’s office indicates patients can request an estimate of the cost of their visit, although it’s accompanied by a disclaimer noting that they can’t really know how much things are going to cost. So as consumers we’re basically supposed to throw medical treatments blindly in our shopping carts with the hope that our insurance comes through to pick up the tab, or that we randomly picked the cheap hospital or the low-end treatments.

Fellow expecting mamas, I guess we just need to hunker down and prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best; after all, the hospital invoice might be the first huge bill of parenthood, but it certainly won’t be the last.