From the book Women and Doctors some good reminders that medical care is a consumer issue (and a business!):
"Keep in mind that health care is a business. Doctors would like to have you see them as thorough professionals, unsullied by such crass considerations as income and market share. Don't believe it! Not only are genuinely unethical and mercenary doctors actively marketing their operations, but well-intentioned doctors are doing it as well. In fact, the health-care system as a whole is actively pursuing you as a patient through the same techniques that everyone with a product is using to get you to be a customer. The danger lies in your failing to understand that. Be a smart and wary consumer, and keep the entire health-care system in the same perspective that you probably already have placed car dealers, insurance salesmen, and makers of food products."
And on a related note, here are some stats from the recent US Maternity Care Facts from Childbirth Connection:
In 2006, combined facility charges billed for "mother's pregnancy and delivery" and "newborn infants" ($86 billion) far exceeded charges for any other hospital condition in the United States.
In 2006, 42% of all maternal childbirth-related hospital stays were billed to Medicaid. The two most common conditions billed to Medicaid as the primary payer in 2007 were pregnancy and childbirth (28%) and newborns (26%), which together comprised 53% of discharges billed to Medicaid.
"Mother's pregnancy and delivery" and "newborn infants" were the first and third most expensive conditions billed to private insurance in 2006, involving 14% of hospital charges to private insurers, or $41 billion.