In Fauquier, the high cost of living can start at birth
Monday, Aug. 19
Photo by Thinkstock
By Robin Earl
Special to the Times
No matter how you look at it, having a baby can be an expensive proposition.
In addition to the crib and stroller – and all those diapers – there is the cost of the OB/GYN and hospital fees to consider. The best approach any new parents can take is to make sure that they are doing everything possible to ensure a full-term, complication-free birth.
The biggest factors affecting the cost of a birth are whether it is vaginal or cesarean, whether there are complications, and the length of the hospital stay (for baby or mom).
The trends are favorable. In a recent government study released by the U.S. Division of Vital Statistics, it was found that pre-term births (before 37 weeks) dropped in 2010 for the fourth year in a row to 11.99 percent.
This represents a 6 percent drop between 2006 and 2010. Cesarean births dropped to 32.8 percent of all live births in 2010. This was the first decline since 1996. Between 1996 and 2009, cesarean births rose nearly 60 percent.
For patients with insurance, out-of-pocket costs for having a baby usually range from under $500 to $3,000 or more, depending on the plan. Out-of-pocket expenses typically include copays -- usually $15 to $30 for a doctor visit and between $200 and $500 for inpatient services for delivery. The cost could be significantly higher for those with high- deductible health plans.
For patients not covered by health insurance, the typical cost of a vaginal delivery without complications ranges from about $9,000 to $17,000 or more, depending on geographic location and the discount for uninsured patients. (The Affordable Care Act requires hospitals to offer a discount to the uninsured. At Fauquier, uninsured patients receive a 38 percent discount on the final hospital charges.) Fauquier Hospital’s Family Birthing Center’s average charge in 2012, for instance, was $7,350 for a two-day stay for the mom (a one-day stay averaged $6,000).
The typical cost for a C-section without complications ranges from about $14,000 to $25,000 or more. At Fauquier Hospital, the average cost was $10,800 in 2012. Induction of labor through the use of drugs will require an extra charge. It should be noted that induction of labor will increase the likelihood of having a C-section, which of course will further increase the cost.
Some patients have a maternity rider on their insurance policies, which means that in exchange for less expensive insurance costs, families opt out of maternity care. In these cases, insurance does not cover any charges for maternity care.
Usually, the baby receives a separate bill for his or her hospital stay, which typically ranges from $1,500 to $4,000 for a healthy baby delivered at term. (At Fauquier, the average in 2012 was $3,900.) For a premature baby with complications who has to spend time in a neonatal intensive care unit, the family may be charged a per day rate for that special, around-the-clock care.
Obstetricians are paid separately from hospital fees, and charge a set rate for the whole maternity event, whether or not there are extra pre-natal visits.
Some insurance plans only cover a percentage -- usually about 80 to 90 percent after a deductible is met, so you can easily end up reaching your yearly out-of-pocket maximum. In most plans, that ranges from about $1,500 to $3,000. According to a study by the March of Dimes Foundation, the average out-of-pocket cost for a vaginal delivery for privately insured patients was $463 and for a C-section, $523.
Baby delivery usually is covered by health insurance even if you join a group health insurance plan after you already are pregnant. The federal government prohibits group health insurance plans from treating pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, or, if they offer maternity coverage, from refusing to cover prenatal care or childbirth.
Individual health insurance plans, however, can legally treat pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, so baby delivery probably will not be covered if you join one while pregnant. If you are insured, check with your insurance representative; some companies require you to pre-authorize coverage for your baby, and some require that you call them when you arrive at the hospital to deliver.
Published studies from the last couple of years suggest that raising a child to age 18 can cost anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000 – not including college. Considering that price tag, giving birth might be the easiest, and least expensive, part of the process.
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