In the June 2009 Parents magazine, there was an article titled “Budgeting for Baby,” and it included “Medical Bills” as its #1 Budget Shock. It mentioned a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, and said that with typical insurance coverage, out-of-pocket expenses for an uncomplicated vaginal birth ranged from $1455-$7884; for an uncomplicated C-section, the range was $2244-$9818; and a C-section with complications could set you back as much as $21, 194. This is with insurance.
I’m assuming that all of these scenarios include prenatal care, including things from ultrasounds to prenatal vitamins, and not just birth expenses. One variable it raised that I hadn’t thought of before was if you have to meet an annual deductible twice, if your pregnancy covers two calendar years. So, unless you get pregnant in January, February, or March (or have a preterm birth, which will also raise your out-of-pocket costs, because NICU tends to be quite expensive), you very well may have to pay your deductible twice. I think that may have happened to my sister-in-law.
She had some complications in her last pregnancy — some heart palpitations, blood pressure problems, dizziness, weakness, or something along those lines, and needed to be seen not just by her OB but by a cardiologist as well, and to take medication, and all that jazz. She had a typical hospital birth, but lost a lot of blood (nearly had to get a transfusion) and had a long recovery. So it ended up being a “complicated” vaginal birth, plus her cardiologist’s fees were not covered as part of her pregnancy costs, because although her problem was caused by her pregnancy, the fees to go see the doctor were extra. Plus, her pregnancy (like most) covered two calendar years, so she likely had to meet two deductibles, with the bulk of the cardiologist’s fees and other pregnancy costs happening in the first year, with a few doctor visits plus the birth happening in the second year; and the baby may have met her own deductible as well. All in all, there was plenty of room to have lots of hidden fees and extra costs that were most unexpected, unpleasant, and unwelcome. I don’t remember the exact figure she said (and she wasn’t totally sure, herself, since the bills were all so scattered around, with the prenatal visits, the ultrasounds, the cardiologist, the hospital charges, the epidural, the anesthesiologist, the IFM, the postpartum — you get the picture), but I think it was over the “vaginal birth” range quoted above.
One solution it suggested was to have a medical flexible spending account through your employer — but be careful, because some accounts like this are set up in such a way that if you have money left over at the end of the year, you lose it. I know Dave Ramsey recommends Health Savings Accounts, but beyond that don’t know much in this area.
There are areas where you can cut costs — and you may be able to prepay some costs and get a deal as well.