Story at a glance
- The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) published a new analysis of health costs associated with pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care.
- It found that women of reproductive age quickly rack up pregnancy-related expenses when pregnant — spending about $19,000 more than those who do not give birth.
- Those who gave birth via C-section, known as a cesarean delivery, paid about $26,000 more in health care costs than those who did not give birth at all.
Pregnancy is one of the most common reasons for hospitalization among non-elderly people, and it’s proving to be expensive — with a new report detailing it costs nearly $19,000 to have a baby in the U.S.
There were 3.6 million births in the U.S. in 2020, and the delivery process alone cost Americans thousands — in addition to prenatal visits and the postpartum period. Most people had health insurance to ease the cost burden, but new data shows that women who give birth incur almost $19,000 in additional health costs and pay about $3,000 more in out-of-pocket expenses than women of the same age who don’t give birth.
The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) published a new analysis of the health costs associated with pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care from a 2018-20 database of enrollees in some of the country’s largest private, employer-provided health insurance plans.
Researchers defined women of reproductive age as 15 to 49 years of age and found that pregnancy-related expenses quickly accumulated, from prenatal care to delivery and postpartum care — about $16,000 was covered by insurance while about $2,800 was paid for out-of-pocket.
Costs varied by delivery, while enrollees who gave birth via C-section, known as a cesarean delivery, paid about $26,000 more in health care costs than those who did not give birth at all.
By contrast, enrollees who gave birth through a vaginal delivery only paid an average of about $14,700.
The implications of high out-of-pocket costs for pregnancy and childbirth are severe, as KKF notes these prices are more than many families can afford. Roughly one-third of multi-person households and half of single-person households would not have the liquid assets needed to cover these types of medical expenses even with a private health insurance plan.
About half of all people who give birth in a given year are covered by private insurance while the remainder of Americans are mostly covered by Medicaid, which generally has little to no out-of-pocket liability.
Once the delivery is over, costs do not end for a family. Medical care for an infant can result in even more out-of-pocket expenses right as many new parents also experience income loss due to lack of paid parental leave — which leaves the door open to incurring high levels of medical debt.
However, Congress has recently acted to prevent surprise medical bills — passing the No Surprises Act. This will prevent insured-Americans from getting medical bills from out-of-network providers that they didn’t choose — something that happens in about 1 in 5 emergency room visits.
Pregnancy has taken center stage in the U.S. after the Supreme Court ruled in June that abortion is not a constitutional right, turning over the 50-year precedent that was Roe v. Wade. More than a dozen states have since moved to restrict or completely ban the procedure, with Americans left with serious implications if they become pregnant.