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March Of Dimes Study Unveils Cost Of Having A Baby

Armen Hareyan's picture

For women insured through large employer private plans, the average cost of having a baby in the United States in 2004 was more than $8,000.

"Having a baby is the most costly health event families are likely to experience during their childbearing years, and health insurance is central to obtaining maternity services critical to the health of the woman and her newborn," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "An uninsured healthy pregnancy can be a financial strain on young families, and a catastrophe in the case of a high-risk birth."

"It is well documented that a lack of prenatal care is associated with poor birth outcomes, including prematurity and low birthweight, and high out- of-pocket expenditures may discourage women from obtaining the care they need," Dr. Howse continued.

In the study, "The Healthcare Costs of Having a Baby," conducted by Thomson Healthcare, claims from more than 10 million employees and dependents in private plans were analyzed. Prenatal care, labor and delivery and post- partum costs during the three months following delivery were combined. Thomson found that employer-based insurance covered approximately 95 percent of maternity care.

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Significant findings include:

-- Average expenditures for maternity care were $7,737 for vaginal delivery; about $7,205 paid by private health plans and $463 by the family.

-- Average expenditures for maternity care were $10,958 for cesarean- section delivery; about $10,324 paid by private health plans and $523 by the family.

-- It is most expensive to have a baby in the northeast, least expensive in the south.

More than 40 percent of women rely on Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), but enrolling income-eligible women age 19 and older in SCHIP requires a federal waiver, a cumbersome step for states. The March of Dimes is working with a bipartisan group from Congress to add a provision to the SCHIP reauthorization bill to allow states to enroll pregnant women in the program without a waiver.