Medical costs in the U.S. are astronomically high, even for a procedure as common as birth, but the bill can still come as quite a shock when you look closely at the itemized list.
A Reddit user with the moniker halfthrottle posted a picture of his $13,000 hospital bill that included a charge of $39.95 for “skin to skin after c-sec.” Yes, it costs around $40 to hold your baby against your body after pushing them out of it:
Vox noticed the thread, which is full of medical staff trying to explain why such a petty charge would get tacked on, including a nurse who said, “I didn’t know that hospitals charged for it, but doing ‘skin to skin’ in the operating room requires an additional staff member to be present just to watch the baby. We used to take all babies to the nursery once the NICU team made sure everything was okay. ‘Skin to skin’ in the OR is a relatively new thing and requires a second Labor and Delivery RN to come in to the OR and make sure the baby is safe.”
The original poster didn’t seem particularly angry about the charge, even though it perfectly encapsulate everything that’s wrong with how people are treated and charged in the health care system: “Everyone involved in the process was great, and we had a positive experience. We just got a chuckle out of seeing that on the bill.”
The bill brought up questions for people generally, including what appears to be a charge for 79 C-sections. Someone saying they were an anesthesiologist explained, “Each surgery is given a set number of billable units. Scheduled c-sections are 6 units I believe. Then every 15 minutes is another billable unit. For a 79 min section that’s 6 initial units plus 6 time units. Medicare/Medicaid pay out at about $20/unit. The most I’ve ever seen for private care is $63/unit.”
There are also lots of stories from people who were hit with unexpected charges after the births of their children, including this blood boiler from another shocked dad:
Hey, I know this world: we had to pay $700 for our son to stay in my wife’s room. Here, I’ll explain: my wife was billed $700 per night after her c-section, and my son was also billed $700 per night for his room.
Here’s the kicker: they shared the same room!! So, I thought it was a mistake, right? So I called the horrible people at Intermountain Healthcare to point out that they had billed two charges for the same room. They’re response? “We bill each patient for the full room charge.” Yep, they billed my wife $700 for her room, and my baby $700 for the same room. They also doubled the nurse charges (even though, again, my baby didn’t have his own nurses.)
When I pointed out how absurd it was to charge my newborn baby $700 so that he could have access to his food source (as she couldn’t leave, her abdominal muscles being severed and all) Intermountaim Healthcare’s rep asked me the cruelest question anyone’s ever thrown at me: “Well, where else was your baby going to sleep?”
Halfthrottle’s charge wasn’t entirely unexpected in retrospect. He says, “During the C-section the nurse asked my wife if she would like to do skin to skin after the baby was born. Which of course anyone would say yes too.” It’s sort of like when a server asks if you want sparkling water or tap, and then you see it on your tab.