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How invoicing turns a routine birth into a high-cost emergency

Wednesday 27 October 2021 (Kaiser News) – Caitlin Wells Salerno knew that some mammals – such as the golden mantle ground squirrels she studies in the Rocky Mountains – invest an insane amount of resources in their young. It did not prepare her for the resources that the conservation biologist would owe after the birth of her second son.

Wells Salerno entered work on the eve of her expiry date, in the early weeks of coronavirus closures in April 2020. She and her husband, Jon Salerno, were instructed to go through the emergency room doors at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, because it was the only entrance that was open.

Despite the strange covid vibe – the emptiness, the silence – everything went smoothly. Wells Salerno felt well enough to refuse the help of a nurse who offered to send her to the labor and delivery department. She even smiled and took a selfie as she entered the delivery room.

“I was just excited that he was here and it was on his deadline, so we don’t have to have an induction,” she said. “I did very well.”

Gus was born a healthy 10 pounds after about nine hours of labor, and the family went home the next morning.

Wells Salerno expected the bill for Gus’ birth to be larger than that for her firstborn, Hank, which cost the family only $ 30. She was a postdoctoral fellow in California with outstanding insurance when Hank was born, about four years before. They were willing to pay more for Gus, but how much more?

Then came the bill.

The patient: Caitlin Wells Salerno, a conservation biologist at Colorado State University and a principal investigator at Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. She was assured by her work through Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Medical service: A routine vaginal delivery of a full-term baby.

Total account: $ 16,221.26. The Anthem BCBS negotiated rate was $ 14,550. Insurance paid $ 10,940.91 and the family paid the remaining $ 3,609.09 to the hospital.

Service Provider: Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, operated by UCHealth, a nonprofit health care system.

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