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I Spent 2.5 Days In A US Hospital Giving Birth — Here's What The Bill For My C-Section Looks Like

Hi! My name is Audrey, and I welcomed my newest favorite person into the world in 2023.

  Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed
Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed

For a very uncomplicated pregnancy, my labor and delivery weren't that easy-breezy.

  Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed
Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed

I was in labor for a total of 56 hours and ended up with an emergency C-section on my birthday after induction failed and my baby's heart rate dipped with each contraction.

  Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed
Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed

It was scary, and unfortunately, with every single thing they had to do, I thought in the back of my head, "I wonder how expensive this thing they're doing is."

Me, two days after I left the hospital.

Me, two days after I left the hospital.

Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed

Well, now I know! I have been receiving random doctor bills for MONTHS because all of the providers, the anesthesiologist, my doctor, my baby's doctor, and the hospital are all SEPARATE BILLS.

  Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed
Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed

I met my out-of-pocket maximum of $3,500, as well as my new son's deductible of $500. The grand total for giving birth is well over $70K, of which I've paid around $4,500 (my insurance covered the rest). I'm still getting bills trickling in that I'm responsible for. I got a bill a few months ago (when my son was already 16 WEEKS OLD) for $600. I'm honestly scared at this point about going to my mailbox.

  Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed
Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed

So, I'm here to share my hospital bills. I'm not going to pretend I know medical terminology, so I consulted with Quiana Craig, an OB-GYN medical biller of 18 years and a licensed medical billing instructor.

First off, I started having contractions at noon on a Wednesday. We were convinced exercise would help walk the baby out, so we went to the zoo. Contractions were five minutes apart. All day, they were around five minutes apart. We went to a hockey game later that night, and contractions were uncomfortable enough for me to cross my fingers we didn't go into overtime. I decided to get checked out that night. The nurses checked for dilation (1.5 cm), waited an hour to see if I'd progress (I didn't), and a doctor stopped by for a few minutes to tell me when to come back. My bill for that hospital visit was $1,146. The out-of-pocket expense: $203.22.

  Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed
Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed

But wait, there's more. The doctor bills separately. So that one hospital visit, I got a bill for using the hospital (above) and I got a separate bill for using the doctor. The doctor bill for that visit: $303. I paid $112.79 after insurance. I can't stress enough that the doctor was in my room for maybe five minutes.

  Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed
Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed

After an absolutely agonizing night of contractions at home, I waited until 5 p.m. the next day to go back. I was still at 1.5 cm but had a hard time breathing through contractions. They agreed to admit and induce me, and that's where this next bill starts. The grand total for this hospital bill came to $56,496.06 for labor, delivery, and recovery during my 2.5-day stay.

  Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed
Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed

I ended up paying $2,071 out of pocket for this bill. Keep in mind, this bill was for the use of the hospital only and does not include the use of the doctors in that hospital (those are billed separately).

While we're looking at this, it may be a good frame of reference to know that according to healthsystemtracker.org, the average cesarean section is $26,280 ($3,214 of which is paid out of pocket).

I'm not going to go through all of these charges (because there's like 60 of them), but here are a few highlights I could find cost comparisons for. The first one that made me raise my eyebrows is this one: a urine screening for $1,251.95.

According to this study from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), EMIT urine drug screening tests are the least expensive, most widely used, and simplest test to conduct, and they typically cost $1 to $5 per drug you're screening for. My novice googling says one of the most complete urine tests screens for 25 drugs, in which case an EMIT test should cost in the range of $25–$225.

The next thing on this list that made me raise my eyebrows is a COVID PCR test for $330, which the nurse told me was mandatory for everyone getting admitted.

According to Consumer Reports, a PCR test runs a medical facility $29 from testmaker Abbott, but also requires a machine that's a couple of thousand of dollars to process the sample. However, Niall Brennan, president and CEO of the Health Care Cost Institute says,

I got five bags of 1,000 ml lactated Ringers, which is the IV bag for electrolytes and hydration. Each bag cost me $72. MFI Medical sells a box of 12 bags online for $132.08 ($11 per bag). Instead, the hospital charged $360 for five.

  Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed
Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed

I was charged $535.70 for a 1-by-2-inch piece of Surgicel Fibrillar, which looks like some sort of bandage that binds to bleeding tissue? I would assume this was for during my C-section. Anyway, with a quick google, Supply Clinic sells this exact product for $161.03.

  Supply Clinic
Supply Clinic

I was charged $170.25 for 500 mg of azithromycin, an antibacterial drug (I had a uterine infection which the OB said may have been why my baby wasn't getting into position well, and I assume I was given this to treat that). However, Drugs.com says the average price is $13.70.

drugs.com

I was charged $19.25 for a 50 mg tablet of diphenhydramine, which is...Benadryl. $19.25 for one tablet of Benadryl.

  Giphotostock / Getty Images/Image Source
Giphotostock / Getty Images/Image Source

I was charged $3,698.50 for 266 mg of bupivacaine liposome, which is used to relieve pain after surgery. Exparal, the brand name for the drug, says on its website it is $376.12 for a 266 mg dose.

  Exparel
Exparel

I was charged $1.50 for a prenatal vitamin. Target sells them at $4.99 for 100, making them roughly five cents a piece. That means it was marked up 2,961% from the Target price.

  Target
Target

Here's a fun one: I was charged $9.25 per 600 mg of ibuprofen. I was given five tablets. Even if I ordered five 600mg pills of ibuprofen from GoodRx, it would be $4.73, not $46.25.

  Rekinc1980 / Getty Images
Rekinc1980 / Getty Images

I was charged $8.25 per capsule of docusate sodium (a laxative). Walmart sells a bottle of 140 of them for $4.54.

  Walmart
Walmart

I got two charges for ropivacaine, a numbing agent. It looked like it was charged per milligram. However, when 200 mg was charged, it was $2.19 per milligram. When 105 mg was charged, it was $3.36 per milligram. ???????????

  TV Globo
TV Globo

I was charged $306.36 for an Alexis wound retractor, which is, from what I understand, a device that aids in a C-section. I'm not going into more detail because thinking about it too long freaks me out. This study from Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology says it's $375 for a box of five, but my bill looks like I was charged for a box of five, even though this same study says one is used per operation, and my operation had no complications, according to doctors' notes.

Quiana added,

I was charged $5,573 a day for my hospital room. I was admitted around 7 p.m. and discharged at 12:58 p.m. three days later, meaning my room was $253.32 per hour.

  Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed
Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed

The first 60 minutes of "recovery OB" (which I'm assuming is the post-op room) was a separate charge and was $848 every 15 minutes. I was in there for two hours.

Which means the day I gave birth, I was charged $5,573 for the room I started in, $14,371 while I was in the operating room, and $6,784 for being in the recovery room. Total cost to be in the rooms for one day: $26,728.

Which means the day I gave birth, I was charged $5,573 for the room I started in, $14,371 while I was in the operating room, and $6,784 for being in the recovery room. Total cost to be in the rooms for one day: $26,728.

Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed

THIS IS FUN AND NOT SAD AT ALL. LET'S KEEP GOING.

My son was charged $3,295 a day for "Nursery Level I." He stayed in this little clear bassinet in the same room as me right next to my bed since he was born. There was no equipment or anything attached to it.

Quiana mentioned that even if baby stays in your room with you, Nursery Level I is still billed because they're coming for care and daily assessments on the baby.

Quiana mentioned that even if baby stays in your room with you, Nursery Level I is still billed because they're coming for care and daily assessments on the baby.

Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed

He was charged for three hearing tests, each at over $200. Quiana added, "If procedures are attempted but unsuccessful, they are still billable for the provider's time and supplies/equipment that may have been used."

Close-up of a baby's head being checked with a medical device by a healthcare professional

Also, he was charged $312.50 for a hepatitis B vaccine. If he would've had it done at our county clinic, it would've been free.

  Sergii Iaremenko / Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF
Sergii Iaremenko / Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF

Not including my doctors' fees, my anesthesiologist's fees, my son's pediatrician fees, or bills from doctors who visited my son in the hospital, the total for both of us and our hospital stay came to $64,998.43.

This is just my portion of the bill. This doesn't include my son's bill.

This is just my portion of the bill. This doesn't include my son's bill.

Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed

I'm grateful for my care team and how my son and I were able to have a short hospital stay and both came out healthy, but some of these charges really make me want to pack my own medicine for my next hospital stay (even though I'm not allowed).

  Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed
Audrey Engvalson / BuzzFeed

Did you receive a big ol' bill for hospital care you want to vent about? Let's hear it in the comments below!