A Plea for Universal Healthcare
The bill for Austen's delivery and the subsequent 4-day hospital stay arrived yesterday. Together with the bill for the anesthesia, which arrived in December (I'm pretty sure they charged me for both the spinal and the epidural, even though I correctly predicted that a spinal wouldn't work), and the bill for the amniocentesis we got last summer, the total cost of bringing Austen into this world was roughly $20,000. The amount we were actually responsible for paying? $555.45. This doesn't even include all our pre-natal vists or the post-partum checkup, for which we made a single $15 co-pay.
Honestly, I'm shocked. I'm not asking anyone to hit us up for more money (though they might—an additional $200 or so is stil in dispute between the hospital and the insurer), but I wouldn't have been surprised or upset if we'd been asked to pay more. Of course this wasn't an entirely free ride; we do, after all, pay monthly premiums for insurance coverage. While those premiums have been rising steadily, however, they're still far, far less than the COBRA coverage I could have gotten when I left my old job. And what of the folks who don't qualify for or can't afford COBRA, or who don't have insurance for whatever reason? How can they afford to have babies? I know an uncomplicated vaginal delivery only costs in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $8,000, but what if you have a perfectly uncomplicated pregnancy, as I did, an still end up with a C-section (again, as I did)? If you budgeted $5K and end up owing $20K, you're screwed.
There's got to be a better way—one that doesn't involve charging the folks who can actually afford insurance less than those who can't. A way that doesn't involve charging the uninsured the "padded" amount designed to make up for the lower payments negotiated by Medicare and private insurers. (In our case, about one third of the total bill was knocked off because it exceeded the "contracted" amount.) I'm not sure what that way is, but it's got to be better than what we have now.
For the time being, I can be relieved that Austen's birth didn't break the bank. But I also can't help but feel a little guilty about it.