Suzanne Lucas

Controlling Costs: Pregnancy and Childbirth

Do you know the cost of childbirth in the United States? Time’s Money magazine reports that the average hospital cost of having a baby in the U.S. is $3,035 — and that number can sail up toward and over the $10,000 mark, depending on your state. Add on complications, tests and related expenses like epidurals, and the total cost can start to look daunting.

While that may not at first seem like something for you to worry about, the role health benefits play and the high potential for financial stress make it an important consideration for any business whose employees may be planning or building families.

What Can Cause Your Employees’ Bills to Rise?

Remember, the costs mentioned above only refer to standard vaginal deliveries with no complications. A premature baby or conditions like preeclampsia will cause costs to rise.

To promote cost savings and a healthy pregnancy, your employees should seek regular prenatal care and follow their doctors’ instructions. Likewise, they should fully disclose their medications and medical history to their doctor or midwife. It’s important to leave no stone unturned: something that might seem like an insignificant detail can be crucial information to medical professionals.

One major cost consideration is choosing the right hospital for the delivery. Your employees should choose in-network hospitals, doctors and anesthesiologists. While you often don’t get to choose the latter, it doesn’t hurt to call the hospital and ask about the anesthesiologists who cover labor and delivery. If they choose an out-of-network provider, your employees’ personal costs can rise.

Finally, cesarean sections generally cost more than vaginal deliveries. But this isn’t something your employees should worry about when it comes to the cost of childbirth, since keeping mom and baby healthy are the first priority.

What Can You Do to Help?

Your first step to help employees keep their attention where it should be at this exciting time — on their families — is to select a benefits package that will make pregnancy and childbirth as affordable as possible.

Your second step is to support employees throughout pregnancy. Allow them to leave work to go to all medical appointments. If their doctors recommend a reduced schedule or lightened duties, do your best to accommodate by allowing flexible schedules and arranging for extra support or coverage from colleagues. Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, if you provide these accommodations for disabilities, you must do so for pregnancy, too. Similarly, make sure your employees know whether their jobs put them in contact with chemicals that could affect the health of their pregnancy, and make accommodations so they can follow their doctors’ instructions for avoiding exposure.

If your company has more than 50 employees and your pregnant employees (or spouses) have been there for more than a year, they’re most likely eligible for leave via the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Help with the paperwork before the ninth month to make sure that everything is covered. This is not only kind — it lowers stress. If you’re not subject to FMLA or a state equivalent, be clear about the type of leave your company provides so that your employees know what to expect.

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Don’t forget that encouraging a healthy workplace can help set the stage for healthy pregnancies. Making it easy for employees to build healthy habits before pregnancy can help them maintain their health during it. Think about how your workplace culture around health can support your pregnant employees, from wellness programs and healthy snack options to tools for managing chronic illnesses.

Finally, no one likes to be surprised by big bills, so when you go through open enrollment each year, make such costs clear to employees. This helps them plan their finances as they plan their families. If someone comes to you with concerns, listen and answer their questions or refer them to someone who can help, such as your insurance broker.

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