Childbirth in the United States should be free. Too many couples feel they can’t start or grow their families because of our disordered politics and warped economy. The existing model that erects barriers to family formation and imposes dizzying costs for childbirth is both unworkable and untenable. The average cost of childbirth in the United States is nearly $19,000, and even privately insured mothers will likely pay more than $3,000 out of pocket simply for delivery.

Childbirth is the No. 1 reason for hospitalization in the United States, and that hospital visit can be extremely pricey. A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that between 2016 and 2019, 1 in 6 privately insured moms were on the hook for more than $5,000 in out-of-pocket expenses. Costs are even higher for families whose babies need to be treated in neonatal intensive care units; 1 in 11 of those families paid more than $10,000 out of pocket for the birth of their baby.

“Maternity care in the United States is uniquely expensive.”

Maternity care in the United States is uniquely expensive. Childbirth costs far less in other developed countries, and comprehensive maternity care is free or cheap for all, with hardly any trade-off in safety or patient outcomes. Ireland, which boasts one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world, guarantees free maternity care at public hospitals. In Finland, it is “almost free” to have a child, and “giving birth is a family affair that emphasizes the mother and baby’s well being.” Unsurprisingly, Finland is also one of the safest countries for a baby to be born, with extremely low infant mortality.

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