As a practicing obstetrician, I always believe that it is fundamentally important to have partners involved with the birth of a child, and for them to participate in all aspects of the delivery— from prenatal care and becoming an advocate for the pregnant patient, to certainly taking part in the birthing experience. The bonding that this brings to the child is of monumental proportions because it provides that family unity and love from the moment of birth, which can translate itself to years of positive experiences for the child.
This is why I was outraged when I heard about a Utah father who says he was billed $39.35 to hold his newborn child during a common skin-to-skin ritual for the mother and child.
As the new dad’s viral Reddit post goes, Ryan Grassley, of Spanish Fork, was surprised to learn when he received his hospital bill that he was charged to hold his newborn on his wife’s neck and chest area. He wrote that the nurse borrowed his camera to take a few pictures of them.
“Everyone involved in the process was great, and we had a positive experience,” Grassley wrote in the post, where he shared a photo of the bill, and a picture of him, his wife and their infant. “We just got a chuckle out of seeing that on the bill.”
Although Grassley said he thought the whole thing was “funny and a bit ridiculous”— and even started a GoFundMe page to raise $39 and pay for the charge, which he met within days— I think this case shows just how absurd hospital bills have become in such crucial medical situations as childbirth and the immediate rituals following.
For mothers who undergo cesarean sections, as Grassley’s wife did, skin-to-skin contact after birth has several benefits for both women and their children. The action involves the baby lying on the mother’s chest, and is meant to help the baby hear his or her mother’s heartbeat and detect her nipple to aid in breastfeeding.
Now, the hospital responded to Grassley’s post, which other parents have met with disgust and outrage, by specifying that the charge wasn’t for the skin-to-skin contact itself, but rather for the additional nurse staff insisted was needed to ensure the baby’s safety during the action.
Regardless, I am sick and tired of patients getting billed to death by hospitals and caregivers, where in some cases, if you look at those crazy itemized bills, they would even charge you for the toilet paper you use when you’re staying in the hospital. Hospitals today charge in such a way that we look like the Pentagon, where we charge $800 for a hammer. And this has to stop.
This case where this father seems to have been billed to simply hold his newborn child is deplorable. There, I said it!
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.