Baby Birth Costs Vary 10-Fold In Hospitals, Study Finds

Caroline Chen | Bloomberg Sustainability | January 16, 2014

The cost of giving birth at a hospital can vary by tens of thousands of dollars, a price range that is “largely random” and unexplainable by market factors, a California study found.

Charges for a non-complicated vaginal delivery in the most populated U.S. state ranged from $3,296 to $37,277, and $8,312 to $70,908 for a non-complicated cesarean section, according to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco. Institutional and market factors could only explain 35 percent to 36 percent of the variation in charges, according to the study, released online today in the medical journal BMJ Open.

Health advocates nationwide are calling for more transparency in an industry where pricing variables are largely opaque. Data released by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in May showed hospital charges for the same medical procedures vary by thousands of dollars across the country, even within the same city.