Giving birth costs a lot. Hospitals won’t tell you how much.
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Giving birth costs a lot. Hospitals won’t tell you how much.


That’s my wife. And she’s pregnant.When
you have a baby, there are lots of costs to consider. Isabel: Carseat, and a bassinet,
a baby carrier, thermometer. Johnny: Wait, wait, but how much is the actual hospital
birth going to cost? Healthcare in the US is significantly more
expensive than in other countries. Some experts say that this is partly because consumers
don’t go around looking for prices comparing them between hospitals. Like they do when
they buy a car or anything else for that matter. So I decided it’d try it out. And see if
there was any way to discover in advance how much we would be paying for our baby’s birth.
What happens next is at once depressing and horrifying, showing how broken and expensive
the American health care system is. There’s no way I’m the only person who’s ever
had this question. Childbirth in the US is the number one reason why people go to the
hospital. Almost 4 million women are going to give birth this year and most births are
relatively uncomplicated. So you would think that with such a common procedure the price
would be generally well known. VO: I wanted to know how much child birth
usually costs, so I did what any good child of the internet would do I found this really disturbing study from
the Yale medical school .It analyzed almost 800,000 low risk deliveries in the US, looking
for the variation in cost just for the facilities, meaning the hospital rooms and supplies and
stuff like that. For just the cost of the hospital room, this
study found that the price varied between $1,189 and $11,986. So I realized I am going
to have to go ask the specific hospital where my wife is giving birth figure this out. Every
hospital has a giant list they call the chargemaster which details all the services they provide
and what they cost. And each item and service in the hospital has a code. If a doctor spends
20 minutes with you, that’s a different code and a different price than if they spent
40 minutes with you. Your insurance company then negotiates a lower price for every single
item on the list. So when my wife goes into the hospital, The nurses have a bar code scanner
that they use to scan every item she will use. Everything from the IV tubes to the Ibuprofen
gets scanned onto the bill. At the end of it all, they put all the codes and prices
onto one piece of paper which they call a “claim” and send it off the insurance. The
insurance looks at it and pays a certain percentage of it based on my policy. The hospital then
sends the remaining balance to me. So I figured if I could get my hands on that master list
of prices I could add up the price of the delivery. Right? Well it wasn’t that easy.
I called the hospital where Isabel is going to give birth and got a message machine. So
I decided to call a some other hospitals to see if anyone could give me general pricing
information about the cost of birth. So my wife is pregnant. My wife is pregnant. My
wife will be giving birth. My wife’s pregnant and I’m trying to get an idea of how much
different services cost. Items that would be on a bill. Different costs associated with
labor and delivery. Hospital: One moment. Ok give me one moment let me talk to my team
lead. Certainly, let me connect you with the billing office. I can connect you with our
financial coordinator. What I’ll have to do is transfer you to the pricing line. I can
transfer you. Johnny: So now I’m being transferred to another line. Or something. I don’t know.
They’re transferring me somewhere. Answer the phone. Message Machine: I will be out
of the office until Monday February 18th. Johnny: I’m going to hang up and try this
again. Message Machine: You’ve reached the voicemail of Patient Priceline. I will be
out of the office until February 18th. Johnny: Everyone’s out of the office. All agents are
currently busy with other customers. Currently, all of our operators are busy. I’m sorry,
extension 59 didn’t answer. Mash up of hold messages. Johnny: No music this time? I just
have to sit her on hold with no music. I’m just trying to see if I can get a number.
Hospital: You will not get a copy of that until after the procedure. Johnny: Ok. Do
you have that information though in terms of like how much certain items cost? Hospital:
no, um they will not present the cost until after. Johnny: So there’s literally no way
for me to discover what the cost is until after I buy is that right? Hospital: We do
not keep that information on hand. Everything is processed after. Johnny: Certainly that
information exists in your hospital system somewhere. Hospital: The itemized copy, all
of that information is done after the procedure, not before. Johnny: I haven’t heard a single
number from anyone about how much anything costs. This is actually starting to become
frustrating. Finally, after two weeks and thirty phone calls I got ahold of a pricing
consultant from the hospital where Isabel’s going to give birth. I finally just got a
call back from a pricing consultant I wasn’t able to record it because she called me out
of the blue. She had taken down all my insurance information and was able to run it through
her system and come up with an estimate quote. And finally for the first time in two weeks,
I heard a number. She said I would be paying $347 for my wife’s birth. She wasn’t able
to give me a breakdown of what that meant or any items specifically. She was able to
only give me that number. And when I pushed on certain items she said she frankly didn’t
know. Apparently prices in a hospital are beyond even a pricing consultant. And then
one day, this happened. I think Izzy may be going into labor. Here we go. I forgot about
healthcare prices for a moment and watched my amazing wife go through a night of painful
labor. She was the hero of the night and at the end of it, we had a new member of our
little family. Oliver was born with no complications and a two day stay in the hospital. All very
typical. Well, I got the bill back in the mail The insurance negotiated a lower–[Oliver
cries]. So the bill that came to us–[Oliver cries] So the bill that came to — [Oliver
cries]. Isabel: We got the final bill back and the hospital charged sixteen thousand
dollars. The negotiated price with the insurance company was eight thousand dollars. They covered
90% of it and sent us the bill for $841 dollars. Johnny: That’s 500 dollars more than the pricing
consultant quotes me for a typical, uncomplicated birth which is what Isabel had. Our healthcare
system suffers from a big problem which is that there’s huge variation in costs. But
what seems to be the bigger problem is that us consumers have no tools to find out where
we fall in that pricing variation. The hospital down the street could be a fairly cheap hospital
or it could be an extremely expensive one–it could be 10 time more expensive than the cheap
ones. You have no idea and there’s no way to tell. And hopefully someday this will change.
But in the meantime, we got a really cute baby out of this whole thing. So, I’m not
complaining. Thank you for for calling the patient Priceline.
At this time we are assisting other callers. But your call is important to us. Please speak
clearly and leave your name and a number where you can be reached and someone will return
your call within…

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