TODAY   |  September 23, 2013

Why having a baby is so expensive

If you are having a baby in the U.S., you are paying more to do it than anywhere else in the world. NBC’s Mara Schiavocampo shows why costs have increased and how hospital bills are riddled with mistakes and unnecessary charges.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> but first more from our series born today and a real reality check about what it actually costs to give birth these days. mara, a new mother herself, has that story. good morning to you.

>> good morning, savannah. if you give birth in the u.s. today you're having a baby in the most expensive place in the world at the most expensive time ever. delivering moms are being charged sky high prices for every service supplied or provided to them and the baby including some that are unnecessary and in some cases the bills aren't just high but they're also full of mistakes. for many women these financial worries are creating a whole new kind of baby blues .

>> reporter: a new baby is born in the u.s. every 8 seconds and for nearly 4 million families every year it's the best time of their lives. but it turns out those bundles of boy costs bundles of cash. over the last 15 years the cost of the c section increased 70% from an average of 8,268 to 14,055. vaginal deliveries have practically doubled from 4,918 to 9,294. so what does this all mean? it means that the u.s. has become the most expensive place in the world to give birth. why? mostly because of a billing system known as fee for service.

>> every time you walk into the hospital , they look at everything that happens to you and say can i bill for that? if you get an aspirin, they're going to bill for that. if you get seen by a specialist, they're going to bill for that.

>> the charges can be exorbitant. when i delivered my daughter i was charged $4,200 for one night in a shared room. that's the equivalent of almost a week's stay in a luxury hotel in new york city . and those bills aren't just high. in many cases, they're bloated. so bloated even a doctor pregnant with her own child can't figure it out. she delivered naturally just 12 minutes after arriving at the hospital and only stayed one night.

>> got him out right away.

>> before they could get my name and information to admit me to the hospital , he was born.

>> reporter: she kept track of every service she received and was shocked when she got a bill for more than $6,000 full of mistakes.

>> i had been charged for two hospital nights. each hospital night was charged to $2,241.60. i was charged with medications i didn't receive such as oxytocin. $958 for his nursery stay.

>> and he didn't spend one minute in the nursery.

>> he didn't spend one minute in the nursery.

>> prenatal vitamins, radiology, midwife bills, labs and hospital fees and after 15 months of negotiations for a corrected bill, her tally came to $9,442.41. and she paid 1,912 out of pocket. while she tried to predict costs beforehand so her family could save for her entire pregnancy, even that was impossible.

>> not a single person could give me an estimate of what the cost would be.

>> it's even more difficult for women uninsured.

>> over $10,000.

>> she gave birth to her third child three weeks ago and recently became self-employed after starting a business with her husband. once pregnant, she realized she wouldn't be able to get insurance and would be responsible for all the costs of her pregnancy and delivery.

>> they said, well, we're sorry but you have a pre-existing condition and we can't insure you and then i had a lot of anxiety.

>> a difficulty we learned about firsthand after calling a number of hospitals across the country.

>> i'm trying to get a price quote for someone uninsured.

>> calling the same hospitals at different times yield different prices and costs for the exact same service varied widely like c-sections from $6,000 to 28,000.

>> there is no logical reason why one is more expensive. it's because they can. they can charge more. nobody is asking questions. and so they do and they get away with it.

>> so just what should expecting moms do? do your homework. unlike with other medical procedures with pregnancy you have nine months to plan. find out if you qualify for medicaid or other financial assistance programs that includes one through the hospital itself and if you do have insurance take a close look at your plan so you know exactly what it covers and go over all of your bills carefully to make sure they're accurate because sometimes there are mistakes.

>> good advice from a new