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What to expect when you’re expecting (a hospital bill)

Even if you’re covered by insurance, the cost of pregnancy and delivery can be surprising. Plan designs, cost variances in different parts of the country, and unexpected complications can all add to your total hospital delivery cost.

So let’s talk about what you can expect and how to prepare for the bill.

The true cost of pregnancy

We’ve done the research on the average prices for routine vaginal and Cesarean delivery (C-sections) across the country. (Note: this is the combined price average for consumers and insurance companies.)

Click here to see the research >>

Kansas City ranks the lowest of major cities at $6,075 for routine vaginal delivery costs, while Sacramento ranks the costliest at $15,420.

Sacramento also ranks the highest for Cesarean delivery costs at $27,067, while Pittsburgh ranks the lowest at $6,891.*

Plan design

Those numbers are pretty overwhelming, but you won’t be stuck with the entire bill if you’re on an insurance plan. Most health plans cover a significant portion of the cost of pregnancy and delivery, including preventive care.

But the exact cost depends on the design of your plan. You may be on a PPO, HMO, or high-deductible plan, all with different cost-sharing models. So if you’re planning on having a child next year, make sure to choose a health plan that works for your family.

For example, if you pick a health plan with a lower deductible and out-of-pocket maximum, you’ll likely pay higher monthly premiums. Still, if the cost of your monthly premiums will be less than your out-of-pocket costs, it would pay to choose the plan with the lower deductible.

What about surprise costs?

Depending on the specifics of your labor, delivery, and health plan, you could wind up with extra costs. For example, unplanned C-sections can add significantly to the cost of pregnancy.

Here are a few other surprise examples we found:

  • Out-of-network doctors
    Sometimes your chosen hospital is in-network, but the doctor performing the birth is out-of-network. Unfortunately, this can result in higher costs. How can you avoid this? Develop a relationship with a delivering doctor, or ask the hospital which networks their delivering doctors belong to.
  • Anesthesia
    Although an operation itself may be covered under your plan, you could still be charged for the anesthesia. Check if your hospital has a range of prices for anesthesia and if you can get a cost estimate beforehand.

Take advantage of preventive care

Most health plans cover a number of prenatal and preventive care services for women. Not only are these available for free, they could also help you avoid surprise procedures or complications that spike hospital delivery costs.

  1. Regular prenatal visits
  2. Anemia screenings on a routine basis
  3. Urinary tract or other infection screenings
  4. Breastfeeding support and counseling from trained providers, as well as access to breastfeeding supplies
  5. Cervical cancer screenings
  6. Folic acid supplements
  7. Gestational diabetes screening for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant and those at high risk of developing gestational diabetes
  8. Hepatitis B screening
  9. Syphilis screening

*Our analysis includes the following costs: prenatal office visits, required ultrasounds, delivery, hospital stay, and one visit after delivery. It does not include the costs of tests, elective ultrasounds, imaging, medicine, and anesthesia.

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