"UC Irvine Medical Center" by Coolcaesar / CC BY-SA 3.0

How One Employer Stuck a New Mom With a $898,984 Bill for Her Premature Baby

Nov 5, 2019

By Marshall Allen

Lauren Bard opened the hospital bill this month and her body went numb. In bold block letters it said, “AMOUNT DUE: $898,984.57.”

Last fall, Bard’s daughter, Sadie, had arrived about three months prematurely; and as a nurse herself, Bard knew the costs for Sadie’s care would be high. But she’d assumed the bulk would be covered by the organization that owned the hospital where she worked: Dignity Health, whose marketing motto is “Hello humankindness.”

She would be wrong.

Bard, 30, had been caught up in an unforgiving trend. As health care costs continue to rise, employers are shifting the expense to their workers — cutting back on what they’ll cover or pumping up premiums and out-of-pocket costs. But a premature baby, delivered with gaspingly high medical claims, creates a sort of benefits bomb, the kind an employer — especially one funding its own benefits — might look for a way to dodge altogether.

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