I'm not going to sugarcoat it for you: Pregnancy - even at its best - is difficult. However, pregnancy with a high-deductible health plan is even more difficult. Want to get educated about the true cost of high-quality health care in a hurry? Enroll in an HDHP and then have a baby.

Over the last nine months, I've been to more than a dozen doctors' visits and had dozens more prenatal tests to ensure the health and proper development of the baby and me. Obviously, my husband and I haven't hesitated to do this and are grateful to live in a country and a metro region where access to high-quality care is abundant.

But holy moly, is it ever expensive. Upon the delivery of our third child this month, we'll have more than met the family deductible under our HDHP. When each bill arrived, I was thankful that pregnancy is not a chronic condition.

Yet, as I settle into my maternity leave, I'm reminded other Americans don't get such a reprieve. The chronically ill must navigate our nation's increasingly costly and confusing health care system 365 days a year. And even for those who aren't covered by HDHPs, they find the experience extremely tough.

According to a recently released poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, three-quarters of people with a serious medical condition say cost is a very serious problem, and half said quality is a very serious problem. In addition, nearly half of those with a recent serious illness say they felt burdened by what they had to pay out of their own pocket for care, according to an article on the NPR website.

The chronically ill also were more likely to report that their care was poorly managed, and that they received the wrong diagnosis or treatment.

To more deeply investigate the poll's results, NPR has launched a series called "Sick in America." Visit the organization's website, npr.org, to find stories, audio clips and details about the original "Sick in America" poll.

Then, share your thoughts about how the findings confirm, change or enhance your view of the American health care system.

Editor-in-Chief Kelley M. Butler will be on maternity leave until early October. She appreciates the congratulations and well-wishes she's received from the EBN community. Until her return, please send letters, queries and story ideas to Managing Editor Andrea Davis at andrea.davis@sourcemedia.com.

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