Did a Utah Hospital Charge a Couple $40 to Hold Their Newborn?

baby in hospital
General Health

If you’ve ever stayed in the hospital, you know you get overcharged for some ridiculous stuff. But one woman in Utah was allegedly charged nearly $40 to hold her own newborn.

Maybe you’ve seen a photo of the bill circulating on social media. Well, there’s more to it than what you’re probably seeing on Facebook. Here’s the story.

New dad Ryan Grassley thought the $39.35 charge for “skin to skin after C-sec” listed on his bill was a bit of a joke, so he posted a photo of it on Reddit, and it immediately began to spread like wildfire. [1]

Source: The New York Times

A lot of Reddit users, and users all over the Internet for that matter, could relate to the ridiculousness of charging a new mom nearly $40 to hold her own child.

Mr. Grassley, 37, of Spanish Fork, Utah, explained that his son was born September 4. While his wife, whom he did not name, was undergoing a C-section, he asked if they would be able to hold their baby after the procedure at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo.

The proud father held his tiny son between his wife’s neck and chest as a nurse took pictures. For this, the couple was charged a fee that amounts to about a four-month subscription to Netflix.

Even though the bill listed the fee as “skin to skin contact,” hospital spokeswoman Janet Frank said in a statement that the charge actually wasn’t for skin to skin contact.

Rather, the Grassleys were charged because an extra nurse was required in the operating room while Mr. and Mrs. Grassley held their newborn son, and the nurse was necessary to ensure that “both mom and baby remain safe.”

Ms. Frank said:

“In general, Utah Valley Hospital is an advocate for skin-to-skin contact between a mother and newborn directly after birth. Skin-to-skin is a best practice with proven benefits for both mom and baby.

We do everything possible to allow skin-to-skin after both vaginal and C-section births. In the case of a C-section, where the bedside caregiver is occupied caring for the mother during surgery, an additional nurse is brought into the OR to allow the infant to remain in the OR suite with the mother. This is to ensure both patients remain safe.

There is an additional charge associated with bringing an extra caregiver into the OR. The charge is not for holding the baby, but for the additional caregiver needed to maintain the highest levels of patient safety.” [2]

When Mr. Grassley saw that his Reddit post had gone viral, he clarified that he and his wife knew their son’s delivery wouldn’t be cheap. In total, it cost the couple $13,280.49 before payments and adjustments to bring their baby into the world. [1]

But Mr. Grassley also clarified that he and his wife weren’t angry. He wrote:

“We knew what we were signing up for and have some money saved up.

Everyone involved in the process was great, and we had a positive experience. We just got a chuckle out of seeing that on the bill.” [1]

Grassley even created a tongue-in-cheek GoFundMe page with a fundraising goal of $39.95 to pay off the eye-roll worthy fee. He says on the page that any excess funds donated will go towards a vasectomy, because “I never want to go through these sleepless baby nights again.”

In case you were wondering, though, American hospitals can charge ridiculous fees for very minor procedures that are called something else – like calling a Band-Aid a “stitch” (suture), for example. But there’s no rate-setting system that governs the American healthcare system. The federal government does not set rates for things like requiring an extra OR nurse to specifically watch “skin to skin contact” (baby holding; the baby’s safety) after a C-section. [1

Generally speaking, hospitals set the prices for patients with private insurance and those paying out of pocket.

At first, Ms. Frank would not specify whether Utah Valley Hospital itself had set the price for the nurse that Mr. Grassley was charged for.

However, she did eventually confirm that the hospital had set the price, which was determined as “a function of nursing time.”

She added:

“We are actively evaluating how better to define the service as it appears on a patient’s bill.”


[1] The New York Times

[2] 10tv.com