Monday, February 09, 2009

Hidden costs of childbirth

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny returns and shares her perspective on the costs of giving birth in Canada. (Note: I’m pleased to announce both Jenny and Rebecca will both be contributing to this column from now on.)

I’m never more grateful to be a Canadian as when I have to be in the hospital. Sure, there are a few things wrong with our health-care system – shortage of doctors, long wait times, crowded ERs – but you have to admit that when it comes to having babies, Canadian health care is a true bargain compared to our American neighbours.

According to my employer’s insurance company, in the U.S in 2008, an uncomplicated vaginal birth could cost up to $7,000 and an uncomplicated C-section could add up to over $12,000. Most American insurance companies will only cover 80% of those costs – and other costs, such as prenatal care, newborn care, and anesthesiology, are billed in addition to that basic amount charged by the hospital. Compare that to the cost of a hospital birth for Canadian citizens: Free!
My own recent experience, in which we welcomed Girl #2 to our family, entailed a C-section and a 4-day hospital stay. With all the worries and sleep deprivation that come along with birthing a premature baby through major abdominal surgery, I’m eternally grateful that I never once had to worry about how I would cover the hospital bills!

That said, there were some “hidden” costs of our hospital birth – and ways that I wished I’d bargained around them.

TV and phone vs. wifi
Both our girls were born at Women’s College Hospital in downtown Toronto. When our first was born, the in-room phone and TV – separate costs, billed at $4/day and $8/day – were necessities. This time, we should have saved our money – we ended up using our cell phones and laptop much more frequently and didn’t really need the land line or teeny-tiny TV. Women’s College Hospital has free wifi and although broadband downloads (such as movies and tv shows) are limited, you can access all your favorite websites, and update your blog and/or Facebook with pictures of your adorable newborn as soon as you get back to your room!

Another cost is parking. We left our car in a parking garage for the entire duration of our stay in hospital at a charge of $22/day, which added up to quite a lot. In hindsight, I wish I’d taken cabs instead, it would have been cheaper and more convenient in the long run. Or, given the outrageous amount of gear we toted with us, we could’ve maybe asked a friend or family member who visited to drive our car home for us, to save on a few days’ worth of parking charges.

As a patient, all of my food was provided by the hospital; but my darling husband, who stayed with me in my room the entire length of our 4-day stay, had to get his sustenance from the hospital cafeteria or local fast-food restaurants, an additional cost of $20-30/day. Only after our discharge did I learn from our nurse that, had we asked, we could have kept a few items in a pantry available for family members! If I’d planned ahead I would’ve brought along a few reheatable items for hubby to save on the fast-food prices.

Baby Needs
One unexpected cost that turned out to be a bargain is the hospital’s “post-partum package”, a bag of newborn diapers, wipes, and feminine pads that was free when Girl #1 was born and now costs $20. At first I was aghast that this formerly free perk now costs money; but after our first foray buying the same baby gear at the supermarket I realized that the hospital was offering name-brands at or below retail cost – a bargain comparable to the best price cuts available at warehouse stores.

If you’re heading to hospital in the near future for your own birth experience, learn from my mistakes and save your cash! You’ll need it for all the diapers your newborn will soon be using!

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  1. I am so jealous that your only costs consisted of parking, newborn package, and tv! In the US, the c-section birth of my precious baby boy in August cost me almost $3000. Now, I consider myself lucky to have very good insurance or else the costs would have been through the roof! My husband still had to purchase all of his meals as well.

  2. Holly, don't be jealous. You have a precious baby boy. There are pros and cons inherent in both systems although I'm happy to be on this side of the border when it comes to health care and social services. Seems like the U.S. is poised for change now that Obama is in the White House.


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  4. zee454:18 am

    Hi, Im returning to canada, and il be over six months pregnant when I do. By the time the baby comes, i probably wont be covered by OHIP, so I wanted to know if you could give me an estimate of how much a regular delivery with a OBGYN as well as a ceasection would cost!? What would lab tests like Ultrasounds?


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