This Family's Unsuccessful Attempt To Find The Best Price For Childbirth Reveals A Larger Issue

“Our health care system suffers from a big problem."

A soon-to-be-dad shopped around hospitals to find the best deal for his son's birth, only to learn that the American health care system is incredibly "broken and expensive" when it to comes to delivering babies.

Vox video journalist Johnny Harris documented the frustrating experience of searching for the best price for his wife, Isabel's, hospital stay before she went into labor.

Childbirth prices vary by hospital and are based on every single element of the procedure. Most insurance companies negotiate a lower price with the hospital, and the consumer pays a percentage of the cost based on their policy.

Harris called six hospitals 30 times in two weeks only to find out that the hospitals won't tell him the exact cost of the childbirth before the delivery.

A price consultant estimated that the cost of Isabel's labor would be $347. The actual price, which they discovered after the delivery, was $841.

Nearly 4 million births in the U.S. occur every year. Although the Affordable Care Act labels childbirth as an essential health benefit for all plans, most people still pay some of the cost.

While maternity care is usually free or cheap around the world, the U.S. is one of the few countries that bills childbirth per item. This contributes to the cost of giving birth.

"It's not primarily that we get a different bundle of services when we have a baby," economist Gerard Anderson told The New York Times in 2013. "It's that we pay individually for each service and pay more for the services we receive."

A 2015 study found that hospital costs per birth ranged from $2,000 to $12,000.

"Our health care system suffers from a big problem, which is that there's huge variation in cost," Harris said in the video. "But what seems to me is the bigger problem is the fact that us consumers have no tools to find out where we fall in that pricing variation."


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