Kaiser Health Staff
San Francisco, CA, United States (KaiserHealth) – Nurse-midwife Karli-Rae Kerrschneider wanted the same supportive birth experience she promises her own patients – and that included the use of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, to dull her discomfort.
The delivery of the gas during labor has come back in vogue in the U.S. in the past few years as a less invasive alternative to an epidural administered by an anesthesiologist.
With a tank in the hospital room, a woman in labor can take breaths of the gas as she needs it.
“Nitrous doesn’t take away the pain so much as make you not care about it,” Kerrschneider said, noting its mild euphoric effect.
Kerrschneider had an epidural for the birth of her daughter in 2016 and didn’t like being immobilized and confined to her bed during labor. For the birth of her son last December, she opted for nitrous oxide at Hudson Hospital in Hudson, Wis.
The labor was long – 11 hours – but it went just as she’d hoped, with no complications and great care from a nurse-midwife and doula. Being able to take puffs of nitrous was empowering and “took the edge off” as she moved around and hung out in the bathtub during her contractions. She estimated she breathed in the nitrous 10 to 15 times an hour in active labor.
She and her husband, Christopher, welcomed their son, Leviathan, on Dec.’.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I would do it all over again.”
Then the bill came.
Chiu said his bill was prompted by the peculiar billing practices at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital spotlighted by Vox in January.
Unlike most large hospitals, San Francisco General does not contract with private insurers. Vox found that the hospital considered patients with private insurance out-of-network, and was slapping many of them with whopping bills.
Stefania Kappes-Rocha was one of them.
On April 30, 2018, Kappes-Rocha, 23, landed in San Francisco General’s emergency room with a fever and intense pain in her lower right back caused by a kidney infection. A student at Hult International Business School at the time, she had a private plan through the college.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the problem – that I did have insurance,” Kappes-Rocha said.
She was sent home a day later with ibuprofen. About two months later, she was billed $27,767.70.
“I couldn’t move because of the pain,” she said. The last thing on her mind was that she’d be on the hook for the entire cost of her hospital visit.
Her insurance eventually agreed to pay about $24,000 of her bill.
“I fought back, I pressured them every week,” she said. “But some people don’t know they should do that.”
Skewered by media reports, the hospital announced in April that it would no longer balance-bill privately insured patients.
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