Giving birth in America now costs more than a woman earns in a month

The cost of giving birth in America has skyrocketed in recent years — even for women with employer health insurance.

A major study looking at women with employer-provided health insurance found that the average new mom spent $4,500 out-of-pocket to give birth in 2015, the most recent year data are available. That’s a 50% increase from 2007, when the typical new mom paid out just over $3,000 of her own money. It’s also more than three times the rate of inflation over that time period.

“I don’t know a lot of patients who have this kind of funding lying around,” said Michelle Moniz, an assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan and the study’s lead author.

Moniz, a practicing physician, added: “These expenses are coming at a time when most of my patients are thinking of everything else on their  baby list — a crib, a car seat, everything they need to keep their newborn safe — and they aren’t expecting a bill like this.”

The cost of one birth — in itself the most common reason for a woman to be hospitalized in her lifetime — is now more than the typical woman earns in a month. The average full-time worker in America makes just over $41,000 a year, or around $3,400 a month, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

And the more than 650,000 women in the study, which was published this week in the academic journal Health Affairs in many ways represent a best-case scenario: They are in large employer-sponsored health insurance plans, which are typically more generous than plans offered by small businesses or purchased individually. These plans cover about half of U.S. births.

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