When you think about the costs associated with having a baby, you are probably considering some of the big picture items: diapers, wipes, clothing, crib, car seat, stroller, baby food, and daycare. Many parents take for granted that their insurance will cover the majority of the costs associated with prenatal care and childbirth. But for families with high deductibles or minimal coverage, the actual cost of childbirth can catch them off guard, especially if the mom-to-be needs a cesarean delivery. That's why it's worth looking into how much a C-section costs before the big day arrives, so you can be a little more prepared.
For the most part, it seems the cost of a C-section depends on where you live. In 2016, Castlight Health, a San Francisco-based healthcare benefits information company, looked into the price of childbirth in 30 of the most populated cities in the U.S. as part of its Costliest Babies study. What it found is that the cost for maternity care, including vaginal and cesarean deliveries, varies widely throughout the country. The prices can even vary greatly within the same city, for the same services, depending on the healthcare facility.
Parents on the west coast are hit the hardest when it comes to cesarean deliveries. Of the eight most expensive cities to get a C-section, four are located in California, one is in Oregon, and another in Washington. The average cost of a west coast C-section ranges from $14,879 in Los Angeles to $27,067 in Sacramento.
Parents in the rest of the country have it slightly better with most cesarean deliveries falling somewhere in the $9,000 to $13,000 range. If you are without health insurance and need a C-section, you might consider delivering in Pittsburgh, PA, where the average cost of the delivery is just under $7,000.
To get a better idea of the disparity of costs, not only nationwide but within the same city, Castlight provided Romper with their full report which can be downloaded on their site. The report shows that in Los Angeles, for example, the price of a C-section can be as low $6,232 or as high as $42,530. In fact, Charlotte, North Carolina was the only city within the study found to have comparable rates from provider to provider, costing $11,741 across the board.
But, why is there such an inconsistency? Kristin Torres Mowat, Senior Vice President of Corporate Development at Castlight tells Romper that healthcare is unlike most other areas of the economy where there is a market force that accounts for pricing. She says:
"In healthcare, there is no correlation between cost and quality, because cost and quality of healthcare services aren’t available before one consumes the services. This means there isn’t a market force to drive a market price for a similar service of similar quality. This is a significant reason why families end up needlessly and unknowingly overpaying for services."
To offset their childbirth costs, Mowat recommends asking your employer or health plan to provide you with decision support tools that give you access to the cost of healthcare services. Different providers have different fees, and childbirth costs can vary from hospital to hospital. If getting the information up from is no longer an option, you can ask your provider to help you understand the costs and the cost implications of your options for where you get your care. Mowat explains:
"While no one person can control wild fluctuations in provider pricing for their city, they can control where they seek care. The more empowered individuals are with information that helps them be educated healthcare consumers, the better, even though it isn’t the only solution to addressing the high and variable cost of care."
Although you can't always prepare for a C-section, as they are often used in emergency situations, you can start to prepare for the possible cost of the procedure. And if you don't have to have one, that's just extra money to put towards your child's future.