The cost of childbirth differs drastically for individuals with employer-sponsored health insurance depending on the state they live in, according to a new report from the not-for-profit Health Care Cost Institute.
The findings, published Wednesday, found the average total cost of vaginal birth was as low as $7,507 in Arkansas to $17,556 in New York. Out-of-pocket costs for childbirth also ranged from an average of $1,077 in Washington, D.C. to $2,473 in South Carolina.
"In a lot of our other work, we find healthcare costs do vary pretty widely across states but what might be surprising is the magnitude of that variation," said Bill Johnson, lead author of the report and senior researcher at HCCI. "Depending on where births occurred, they were 2.5 times more expensive in some states than others. You can imagine for an individual that could be pretty striking."
To get the findings, the analysis used more than 351,000 employer-sponsor insurance claims from 2016 and 2017 across 35 states.
Johnson said prices were the main culprit for the variation in costs among states. Providers are able to negotiate certain prices in contract agreements with insurers depending on their market power.
The report also explored differences in use of Cesarean-sections by state. Florida had a C-section rate of 40% while Utah's was 20%. C-section cost relative to vaginal births also varied depending on the state. For instance, the cost of a C-section in Maryland was only $1,852 higher on average than a vaginal birth. In Oregon, the average difference between the two was $10,755.
The data sets are publicly available and Johnson said the hope is that other researchers will use it to conduct their own studies on this topic focused on specific regions or cities.