Jul 6, 2021 - Health

Childbirth highly susceptible to surprise medical bills

Illustration of a stork holding a very long receipt.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nearly one in five newborn hospitalizations or childbirth deliveries have at least one surprise medical bill, especially if cesarean delivery or neonatal intensive care services are provided, according to a JAMA brief out Friday.

Why it matters: Childbirth hospitalizations — which often out-of-network — are the most frequent sources of surprise bills in the U.S. and new federal protections addressing this issue could benefit many families, the analysis said.

Driving the news: A new rule from the Biden administration was issued Thursday to protect patients from surprise bills under certain circumstances, including childbirth and newborn hospitalizations, according to a senior official from the Health and Human Services department.

  • The regulations will take effect for health care providers and facilities on Jan. 1, 2022.

By the numbers: The largest proportion of women who had a potential surprise bill, about 16%, had anesthesia with vaginal delivery. However, the 14% of women who had C-sections were more likely to have costlier surprise bills at a median of $1,825.

  • About a third of families that received potential surprise bills had a cost that exceeded about $2,000, though the median cost was $744.
  • Neonatal intensive care accounted for the highest percentage of newborn hospitalizations at about 19%.
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