On Monday morning, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William, gave birth to another child, aka royal baby number three. The baby boy was safely delivered in the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital in London, the kind of private, luxurious medical facility one might expect would welcome the fifth in line to the British crown. But everyday American women face even greater costs for giving birth at average U.S. hospitals—and don’t even receive better prenatal care or maternal services for their financial troubles.
In 2015, delivering a baby without a C-section at the Lindo Wing cost about $8,900 for a 24 hour stay in the kind of deluxe room that Middleton likely used, according the Economist. That’s a far cry from the prices American women must grapple with throughout the country (although admittedly those statistics are highly variable and hard to gather given the disparate and opaque nature of U.S. health care).
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The average cost of a traditional, non-C-Section delivery at an American hospital is $10,808, according to the most recent survey data from the International Federation of Health Plans. (On the upper range, that can actually reach $18,383 and even some of the lowest-cost options exceed $8,000.) That means American women are charged 21% more on average than even more wealthy patrons of the Lindo Wing where Middleton gave birth.
And what do these new and expectant mothers get in exchange for the extra money? In many cases, objectively poorer health outcomes (particularly for women of color and minorities). The maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is higher than that in most similarly wealthy nations—and it’s actually been on the rise over the past two decades.
There are myriad factors that are likely feeding into this public health gap, including big geographic and socioeconomic disparities in access to medical care and the sky-high cost of American medicine. But the ultimate result is that the very first stages of motherhood are a bigger budgetary burden, for worse results and in far more humble settings, for everyday American families than they are for literal princes and princesses.