So there’s a video floating around Facebook right now that shows a couple complaining that they cannot find out how much it costs to have a baby in the hospital. The man in the video calls a bunch of hospitals, and no one will tell him exactly what they will charge.
One reason why this is difficult is that we don’t always know going into a birth what services will be used. Consider the following possible labor scenarios:
- A 5 hour labor with no pain medication
- A 40 hour induction with the use of forceps
- A cesarean birth with complications
All of those scenarios will have vastly differing charges, and the hospital has no idea what version to quote you if you call. As much as parents might like to have one, and exact quote simply isn’t possible in today’s health care system.
In the video, the man wanted to get a copy of the “chargemaster” information, but that’s considered proprietary information and isn’t a simple request. There are thousands of different things that would be listed on a hospital’s chargemaster, and it’s generally a computer database that is constantly updated and changing as well. They can’t just pop the whole thing in the mail, and since they don’t know what you may or may not use, the billing clerks (who have likely never attended a birth and seen what gets used) don’t have any idea what to include in an estimate.
However, there is indeed a growing movement towards transparency in the cost of health care, and with a little searching you can indeed find that information. It doesn’t even take all that long. I searched all 50 states and found 21 databases in less than an hour. Since I was only looking at the first 2 or 3 Google results for each search, I may have missed some. I compiled a list below of the resources on pricing transparency available in the United States. Many states have a database covering all hospitals in the state. In some states, large health care corporations have the charges for their hospitals on their web site. Others, like Massachusetts, require hospitals and care providers to give patients the codes they will be billing under so that their insurance companies can provide an estimate. This helps those with insurance, but does not help those without insurance or with a high deductible plan who might be paying cash.
Where a statewide database administered by a third party organization (like the state health department, a hospital association or consumer group) is available, it is linked below. I recommend searching for your state and “Healthcare pricing transparency” to see what resources might be available from insurance companies or hospital systems in your area. In my searching, I saw dozens and dozens of insurance and health system transparency resources available. So many I decided not to even try and link them here!
The information is out there. The man in the video just didn’t know how to find it, and did not think beyond calling the hospital. In this day and age, that’s overly simplistic.
If I missed any resources you know about, please tell me so I can add them to this list!