The Price of "Skin-to-Skin": The Hidden Costs of Childbirth in the US

Nine months of preparation for your little bundle of joy?  $5,000+. A six-week birthing class?  $60-100.  Getting the chance to hold your newborn baby?  Priceless…and $40.   

A Utah couple discovered the true price of that unforgettable moment when they received the bill for their son’s caesarian section and posted their experience on Reddit.  “Skin-to-skin” is a common hospital practice in which newborns are placed on their mother’s chest soon after delivery, which has been shown to promote longer breastfeeding periods and better temperature stability in the infant.  According to the hospital, the charge was incurred due to the extra nurse that needed to be present during the skin-to-skin time - a claim that was supported by a practicing Ob/Gyn.

The larger point in this case concerns the lack of federal rate-setting for the medical materials and procedures in the US.  If you are covered under private insurance or paying out-of-pocket, the hospital sets the prices associated with your care.  The federal government does set the rates for individuals with certain types of coverage, including Medicaid; however, by and large, this is far from the norm.  In fact, the billing process is so bewildering for patients that companies are creating medical billing navigation apps to help them.