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Why does it cost $32,093 just to give birth in America?

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he US is the most expensive nation in the world in which to have a baby – and it may factor into thousands of bankruptcies each year

Stella Apo Osae-Twum and her husband did everything by the book. They went to a hospital covered by insurance, saw an obstetrician in their plan, but when her three sons – triplets – were born prematurely, bills started rolling in.

The hospital charged her family $877,000 in total.

“When the bills started coming, to be very honest, I was an emotional wreck,” said Apo Osae-Twum. “And this is in the midst of trying to take care of three babies who were premature.”

America is the most expensive nation in the world to give birth. When things go wrong – from pre-eclampsia to premature birth – costs can quickly spiral into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. While the data is limited, experts in medical debt say the costs of childbirth factor into thousands of family bankruptcies in America each year.

It’s nearly impossible to put a price tag on giving birth in America, since costs vary dramatically by state and hospital. But one 2013 study by the the advocacy group Childbirth Connection found that, on average, hospitals charged $32,093 for an uncomplicated vaginal birth and newborn care, and $51,125 for a standard caesarean section and newborn care. Insurance typically covers a large chunk of those costs, but families are still often on the hook for thousands of dollars.

Another estimate from the International Federation of Health Plans put the average amount insurers paid for a vaginal birth in the US at $10,808 in 2015. That is quintuple the IFHP estimate for another industrialized nation, Spain, where it costs $1,950 to deliver a child. The amount insurers pay for births in America is lower than the amount billed by hospitals because insurers negotiate lower prices.

Even the luxurious accommodations provided to the Duchess of Cambridge for the birth of the royal family’s daughter Princess Charlotte – believed to have cost up to $18,000 – were cheaper than many births in America.

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