The average hospital baby delivery in the US costs $9,775—$15,041 if it's a Caesarean—more than any first-world country in the world, the New York Times reports. It's $3,541 in France, and $2,641 in Britain. And the price hike is not because US mothers-to-be are getting better or more high-tech care; the US actually has one of the highest rates of infant and maternal death in the developed world. It's because of the unique way health care in America is billed: item by item. "It’s not primarily that we get a different bundle of services when we have a baby," says an economist at John Hopkins. "It’s that we pay individually for each service and pay more for the services we receive."
Delivery costs in the US have tripled since 1996. Even for those with health care with maternity coverage, out-of-pocket expenses increased fourfold from 2004 to 2010. In almost all other developed countries, hospitals charge a flat fee, regardless of whether the expectant mother has more tests and scans, an epidural, or even, in some cases, a water birth. The good news? Some US hospitals are now offering all-inclusive packages, where patients don't receive any unexpected bills along with their new baby. Another potential solution is to mimic other developed countries, which often use midwives for exams and many deliveries, instead of more costly obstetricians (Read more hospitals stories.)