When Kate Middleton had her third child just last week, it was no small affair. Inside her birthing suite, the Duchess of Cambridge had access to the most advanced medical care available as well as food prepared by on-site chef’s, and, apparently, a good wi-fi connection. That’s a lot more than most of America’s new moms ever see during their hospital visits. So, how much did this very royal birth cost? About $8,900. Yes, that’s a lot, but what’s striking about the number is that it’s lower than the average cost of an American vaginal birth — not to mention the catering.
According to data from the national, independent, nonprofit organization FAIR Health, the national average charge for an uninsured vaginal delivery is $12,290 and the national average charge for a C-section is $16,907. If everything doesn’t go smoothly, those numbers can easily double, which makes the U.S. the most expensive place to have a child in the whole world. In fact, as far as cost is concerned, America boasts (if that’s the right word) cost 40 percent higher than Switzerland, its nearest rival.
So, what gives? The reason that births in America cost so much is that the government does not, for the most part, subsidize operations. Because it medicine is largely run as a private industry, birth costs vary from state to state but remain exorbitant everywhere. The reason for that consistency is that the U.S. government doesn’t negotiate with healthcare providers or pharmaceutical companies. The British government does and does so aggressively. This has brought down the average cost of vaginal childbirth in England down to $2,300, which starts to make Kate Middleton’s delivery sound very nice indeed.
It’s only fair to note that most births in the US are insured, so the extremely high price tag isn’t usually what the average pair of proud parents is shelling out. Still, the massive cost gap between the US and UK should illustrate the degree to which US healthcare policy has left the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry largely unchecked and made having a child in America, like staying married, something of a luxury.