Spending on childbirth—the country's No. 1 reason for hospitalization—is on the rise, and much of it is due to unnecessary tests and procedures, USA Today reports. A new study critical of the system found that $2.5 billion is spent annually on needless high-tech C-sections, which cost more than twice as much as a normal birth. "Everybody recognizes that our health care system's in trouble," says the study's co-author. "But when it comes to maternity care, no one talks about it."
Childbirth-related charges swelled from $79 billion in 2005 to $86 billion in 2006. An expert familiar with the report said that “very significant external forces” were to blame. Doctors often order unnecessary tests to gird themselves against malpractice suits, and C-sections mean a longer stay and more money for the hospital. “A lot of people think pregnant women are accidents waiting to happen,” one of the authors said. “It's just crazy.”