In case you hadn't heard, Kate Middleton recently had a baby boy. The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth at the private Ludo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital in central London, which, according to The Daily Mail, includes complimentary breakfast, satellite TV, internet access, and a comprehensive wine list.
The cost for such royal treatment?
A natural birth is pegged at £4,965, or $7,621, for a one-night stay, with additional nights costing an extra £1,000 each. A long stay by the Duchess could have cost her a whopping £10,000, or just over $15,000, notes The Daily Mail.
That might seem like a princely sum, except when you consider that it is less than what the average U.S. hospital charges to deliver a baby in a non-exclusive room that, presumably, doesn't offer a selection of fine wines.
Elisabeth Rosenthal, who investigated the exceptionally high costs of U.S. childbirth for The New York Times last month, expressed her royal confusion on Twitter:
British royal born in fanciest ward :$15000. Average US birth: billed $30,000; paid $18,000. What's wrong here? http://t.co/Yl7NREkvxh
— Elisabeth Rosenthal (@nytrosenthal) July 23, 2013
Rosenthal is referring to the average total price charged for a vaginal delivery in the United States, which was $30,000, with the average commercial insurer paying $18,329. Granted, we don't know what exactly is included in the Ludo Wing's $7,621 "normal delivery package," but it's still a luxury, private birthing suite charging less than the average U.S. hospital.
If we set aside the royal family, the picture gets even more depressing. At $9,975, the average American woman spends more than triple on childbirth than what the average British woman does. That is despite the fact, according to Rosenthal's report, that women do not get better care in the United States than they do in other developed countries.
The reason American deliveries cost so much is that pregnancies are billed item by item, unlike in Europe, where hospitals charge a flat free for childbirth.
"We’ve created incentives that encourage more expensive care, rather than care that is good for the mother,” Maureen Corry, executive director of Childbirth Connection, told Rosenthal.
Then, of course, there is the issue of what uninsured American women have to pay for childbirth. Renée Martin, whose health insurance didn't include maternity coverage, told The New York Times that her hospital quoted her a price as high as $45,000 for total maternity care.
Unlike Kate Middleton, however, she couldn't have the Royal Family pick up the tab.