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Baby Delivery Costs Vary Wildly and Not Only by Region

News  |  By HealthLeaders Media News  
   June 30, 2016

The price differential is so great that a cesarean delivery in Cleveland is less expensive than a routine vaginal delivery in 17 of the 30 costliest cities, researchers find.

Having a baby in Sacramento? It might be worth it to go elsewhere.

Sacramento tops the list of the costliest places to have a baby, on average, topping even San Francisco, in second place. Stay away from Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Portland, OR, too.

The Costliest Babies Analysis, released Thursday by Castlight Health and based on claims data, has found wide, unexplainable differences among delivery costs.

Wide variances variances were identified not only from one city to another, but also from one organization to another in the same city.

In Los Angeles, depending on the hospital, the cost for a vaginal delivery can range from $4,223 to $27,326 for the same care.

Nationally, delivery costs range from about $6,000 to more than $40,000, based on negotiated rates for in-network providers. The average price for a routine delivery is $8,775, the research shows.

The price differential is so great that a cesarean delivery in Cleveland ($8,772) is less expensive than a routine vaginal delivery in 17 of the 30 costliest cities.

Prices are defined as the employee cost-sharing plus the amount paid by the employer, indicating that employers potentially have a huge opportunity to pressure hospitals and health systems on prices for such care.

"The price variances seen in both routine and cesarean deliveries reflect the larger systemic problems in our nation's healthcare system," said Kristin Torres Mowat, Castlight's senior vice president of plan development and data operations, in a press release.

Medical claims data were the primary source of data used for the analysis, augmented by other publicly available data, including actual provider rate sheets that list the negotiated price between a provider and an insurer.

Castlight used that information and proprietary algorithms to obtain the provider prices used in the analysis.

Regardless of delivery method, prenatal office visits, required ultrasounds, delivery, the hospital stay, and one visit after delivery were included in the cost totals. Not included were tests, elective ultrasounds, imaging, medicine, and anesthesia.

 


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