How much should it cost to hold your newborn? $39.35?

By now you’ve probably heard about the hospital that charged $39.35 for a woman who just had a cesarean section to hold her baby.

The baby’s father posted a copy of the bill on Reddit, and it drew over 11,800 comments. The story was also widely circulated on Twitter.

At least one labor and delivery nurse on Reddit and a spokesperson for Utah Valley Hospital where the baby was born stated that the charge was not for holding the baby, but rather it was because an extra nurse had to be brought into the room to watch the baby while the first nurse took care of the mother.

I’m not buying it. The only way to justify charging for the presence of a second nurse would be if she had to be called in from home. If the nurse was already in the hospital—which I’m sure she was—the five or so minutes that it would take for her to stand by while the mother holds the baby would surely not take her away from the routine duties of a labor and delivery nurse.

This is especially true for Utah Valley Hospital, which delivers about 3600 babies per year. Only about 30% of them or about three per day are born by cesarean section.

And who says a second nurse is even required? Most cesarean sections are performed under epidural or spinal anesthesia. The mothers are awake and perfectly capable of holding a newborn child. An anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist is always in the room and is primarily responsible for caring for the mother anyway.

Like most hospital charges, the $39.35 figure appears to be the product of some bean counter’s imagination. Why $39.35? Why not $39.95 or $68.87?

Apparently, Intermountain Healthcare (a system which includes Utah Valley Hospital) has some other interesting billing practices. This is what one Reddit commenter had to say:

Hey, I know this world: we had to pay $700 for our son to stay in my wife’s room. Here, I’ll explain: my wife was billed $700 per night after her c-section, and my son was also billed $700 per night for his room. Here’s the kicker: they shared the same room!! So, I thought it was a mistake, right? So I called the horrible people at Intermountain Healthcare to point out that they had billed two charges for the same room. They’re [sic] response? “We bill each patient for the full room charge.” Yep, they billed my wife $700 for her room and my baby $700 for the same room. They also doubled the nurse charges (even though, again, my baby didn’t have his own nurses).

He refused to pay, and the bill was sent to a collection agency.

Congratulations on the birth of your son.

“Skeptical Scalpel” is a surgeon who blogs at his self-titled site, Skeptical Scalpel.  

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