Monday, October 25

We got the bill for having a baby: $ 37,000. Welcome to life in America | Arwa mahdawi


Baby got bills

For the past few months, my wife and I have been playing an essentially American game of Guess the Baby Bill. The rules are simple – try to guess exactly how much they would charge us for the birth of our daughter earlier this year. Last week the hospital bill finally came through, ending the guessing game. The cost of an uncomplicated vaginal delivery? $ 37,617.69.

I will not repeat what I said when we received this bill, because it cannot be printed. My language became particularly colorful when, upon examining the bill, I noticed that most of the charge was for three nights of “room and board” in a semi-private room (with two beds separated by a curtain) that cost $ 10,350 a night. That’s five times more expensive than a completely private suite at the Ritz-Carlton by Central Park. The postpartum hospital room, by the way, was more of a budget motel than the Ritz. It was barely big enough to swing a baby, and I had to sleep in a cramped office chair next to my wife’s bed. To add to the financial discomfort, the hospital also marked me as “male” on the baby’s birth certificate and we have spent the last two months trying, and failing, to change this.

Anyway, the good news is that we don’t have to pay the entire bill – our health insurance covers around $ 31,000, leaving us with a balance of around $ 6,000. Although, of course, that doesn’t mean ridiculously high prices are okay. We continue to cover costs indirectly through our huge insurance premiums. Which, Oxford Health, part of the UnitedHealth Group, recently informed us, will go up 16% next year. But it’s understandable I guess. They need that money to do the things healthcare companies are supposed to do: maximize profits, increase share prices, and pay their executives huge amounts of money. The CEO of UnitedHealth Group earned more than $ 50 million in salary, bonuses and stock option offset in 2019.

It’s not just the exorbitant prices in America’s healthcare system that are problematic. It is the lack of transparency. My partner called our insurance company several times before the birth to try to find out how much we would expect to pay. Each time we were told that we would not have to pay anything. Which was obviously silly, since nothing in the US healthcare system is free. On the other hand, nothing in the US healthcare system seems to have a fixed price. It seems the medical providers get as many as they think they can get away with, collect that, and then wait for you to spend three months of your life haggling over the bill. I’m not sure that Franz Kafka himself could have imagined a bureaucratic system as terribly opaque and absurd as American healthcare.

America’s healthcare system is not just a nightmare to navigate, it is inefficient and inequitable. The United States may spend more on health care as part of the economy than any other developed country, but it also has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, and maternal deaths have been on record. increasing since 2000. And black women are three times more likely dying from a pregnancy-related cause than white women.

Unfortunately, although there is a growing desire Among Americans in favor of a single-payer system, it does not appear that health care in the United States is going to be more affordable or equitable anytime soon. Joe Biden campaigned on the idea of ​​creating a public insurance option, but plans to that seems to have faded. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, things are not looking much better: the British NHS is slowly and stealthily being privatized.

Do you know what the saddest thing about the hospital bill is? In the grand scheme of American health care, the $ 6,000 we have to pay is really not that bad. Lauren Bard, an ER nurse from California, for example, was beaten with a bill of $ 898,984.57 when her daughter reached 26 weeks. You’d think a nurse would get pretty good health insurance from her employer, but Dignity Health, whose motto is “Hello Humanity,” refused to cover the costs until media company ProPublica got involved. $ 6,000 is a lot of money, but it could have been a lot worse.

Still, if we lose our minds and decide to have another child in the US, then I will hire a midwife and take the child to the Ritz.

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www.theguardian.com

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