The financial costs of bringing our daughter into the world

We entered the hospital with great anticipation. Our baby was overdue and with no signs of delivery, I was admitted and was to be induced the following morning. Three days later our baby would be our greatest blessing on Thanksgiving Day.

It wasn’t until weeks later that we found ourselves scratching our heads over costs we incurred bringing our daughter into the world. We were fortunate to have had fantastic health insurance through my husband’s work, but even with sixty percent of the bill covered we were having trouble deciphering the hospital bill. Only in healthcare do consumers accept the terms of financial responsibility without question. Nothing of course was itemized. My husband, a high school math teacher requested, from the hospital, an itemized list that would explain the exorbitant costs. Even with his mathematical background the extensive list was just too daunting to wade through. There were pages and pages of items that we could not prove or disprove definitively. Everything imaginable was on that list-every single pill, gown, linen, toilet paper whatever.

Being young and green, we were hit with at least one bill that could have been avoided had we known. It was a mistake we did not make again with the next four kids, who were born in the same hospital and delivered by the same doctor. With the firstborn we failed to choose a pediatrician before she came into the world. Before her birth, one of the myriads of questions we were asked upon entering the hospital was the name of our pediatrician. It never occurred to us that we should have pre-chosen a doctor for our unborn child.

“No matter,” we were told one of the house doctors would look her over. We forgot about it until we opened a bill from one of the hospital’s neonatologist. The bill was outrageous. This doctor whom we had not met personally was a specialist and the bill reflected so. Additionally, because the neonatologist was out of our insurance network, we were forced to pay out of pocket. We recovered by the time our second child was due and we were wiser the second time around. Since that time we have made sure every expectant parent we knew.

We were married four years before our first child was born and enjoyed very good credit. Imagine our surprise, when following her birth we received a bill from the hospital stating that our account would soon be turned over to a credit agency for non-payment! We were shocked since it was the first bill we received. On top of that, my husband had made at least one visit to the billing department of the hospital for information on what we owed and find out why we had not received a bill. He was assured during that visit that everything was as it should be and we would receive a bill soon. Just in case, he paid $100.00 on the bill. It took many phone calls to straighten out the hospital’s mistake.

Finally we were able to speak with the right person at the right time and the bill was adjusted with their apology. The hospital billing-associate also was able to flag the account to make sure that it was not sent to a credit agency. We were thankful to finally reach the one person who not only understood the system, but also listened to us.

Ray Burow is a patient. 

The financial costs of bringing our daughter into the worldThis post originally appeared on the Costs of Care Blog. Costs of Care is a 501c3 nonprofit that is transforming American healthcare delivery by empowering patients and their caregivers to deflate medical bills. Follow us on Twitter @costsofcare.

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  • Ron Smith

    Because I’m a practicing Pediatrician I sincerely appreciate everything that you are saying. I just turned 55. Several years ago, while rummaging through old family photos and papers with my parents, we found the hospital bill for my delivery. In 1958, it costs them $168, hospital and doctors fees inclusive. The bill was refreshingly clear on what items were be charged, unlike the cryptic hospital bills of today.

    I have no idea how that compares to dollars today taking inflation into account, but I suspect that the comparison pales.

    As to picking a Pediatrician prior to delivery, it is probably worth saying that more and more of them do not see babies at all in the hospital. The reason is clear but not to patients. The amount that a Pediatrician gets paid for that service is a pittance compared to what the neonatologist will receive. Even though I was doing level III neonatal care in the hospital all during the first half dozen years after I started private practice in 1986, that didn’t matter. Certifications are all the payers are looking at. Its likely the payers and patients are not getting their money’s worth for normal newborns I suspect.

    Another aspect of this pay differential is not seen by most people. When our group of Pediatricians stopped going to see newborns, the decision was made because most of the patients were unassigned and didn’t come to our office for subsequent Pediatric care anyway. I have driven as many as 75 miles between hospitals to see these newborns prior to seeing the first patient in the office.

    The final aspect that I would mention is the lack of effectiveness in parent education at the bedside. I get far more done when I have them see me in the office in a few days and it is more efficient care providing a better baseline for me in future exams.

    So I hear your frustration and some things like the billing confusion are lamentable. Hopefully though you can see why Pediatricians are slowly moving away from any hospital care, save for children’s healthcare facilities. This is a new role-based Pediatrics that I seem coming to bear.

    Ron Smith, MD
    www (dot) ronsmithmd (dot) com

  • Suzi Q 38

    This is why I get out of the hospital as soon as possible.

  • Icey Bev

    Gosh, it frightens me to consider what the birth of my emergency-C daughter would have cost in the US. Thankfully we delivered in Canada and there is no patient charges other than the $50 we pay per month for BC Healthcare. I hope these two contrasting experiences will help provide some much needed perspective on the value of universal healthcare.