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Why Does It Cost $32,093 to Give Birth in America?

The United States likes to think of itself as the most economically progressive nation on Earth. But when it comes to health care–especially for new and expectant mothers–our system is downright regressive. Even in the best of circumstances, a new child can leave a mother and her family struggling to pay thousands of dollars in debt. And when things do not go well, and there is a birth injury caused by a doctor’s negligence, the result is often financial catastrophe.

Lack of Insurance, Paid Leave Can Lead to Bankruptcy for New Moms

A recent article in The Guardian offers a cautionary tale of maternal health care in this country. The article featured a mother who prematurely gave birth to triplets. Despite having medical insurance, the mother and was still on the hook for $51,000 because certain service providers were “out of network” and therefore not covered by her plan.

And if you think $51,000 sounds like an excessive amount just to give birth, consider figures from Childbirth Connection, a project of the National Partnership for Women & Families, which in 2013 estimated the national average cost of Cesarean births was, in fact, $51,125. Even women who deliver their children vaginally can expect to pay, on average, $32,093.

Note that these figures are based on women who were covered by “employer-provided Commercial health insurance.” And the numbers only reflect total costs, not the source of payments. Indeed, Childbirth Connection found that insurers only paid about 55 percent of costs.

But keep in mind, the U.S. commercial insurance market greatly distorts prices. In other western nations, where there is a single-payer insurance market, costs are inherently lower. For example, The Guardian cited Spain, where the typical cost to deliver a child vaginally is just $1,950–versus over $10,000 in the U.S. when the procedure is covered by insurance.

Birth costs are also just a small part of the larger financial picture. Mothers who work often need to take several weeks or months off to care for their child. The U.S. does not have a national paid family leave program, and only a handful of states have adopted such measures. This means that at a time when mothers are facing sudden, unexpected medical bills, their income may be reduced to little or nothing with no “safety net” to catch them.

All of this too often adds up to bankruptcy. According a 2006 study cited by The Nation, about 7 percent of U.S. bankruptcy filers “cited the birth of a child” as a primary cause.

The Role of Medical Malpractice in Rising Childbirth Costs

Another oft-overlooked factor in higher U.S. childbirth costs is the fact many doctors order unnecessary procedures and surgical interventions. This is sometimes referred to as “defensive medicine” and is frequently justified by the medical community as a necessary precaution to prevent medical malpractice claims. But in reality, defensive medicine is itself often a kind of malpractice–and can lead to the very types of birth defects that leave new mothers facing bankruptcy.

Your family should never face financial ruin due to the birth of a child–especially one complicated by a doctor’s negligence. If your child has suffered a complication or birth defect and you need advice from a qualified Miami medical malpractice attorney, call the offices of Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein, LLP, at (786) 661-1359 or visit us online today.