Photo Credit: Elnaz6 / Wikimedia Commons
I remember the conversation as if it were seared into my brain.
I was on the phone while driving up U.S. Highway 129 for a freelancing gig at the start of a now three-year-old experiment in flying solo professionally. My daughter, 3 at the time, was at that age when most parents recover from the fog of the first pregnancy and feel confidently foolish enough to tackle another one.
And so I made the call to my health insurance provider.
"Yes, I'd like to find out about my maternity coverage," I told the young man on the other end of the phone. He hesitated, then said, "Um, you are on an individual plan. Your plan does not include any maternity benefits."
Surely, I thought, there had to be some mistake. I had a $10,000 deductible, which means, even with negotiated rates, I would be paying for at least half—or more— of the cost of having a second child.
"Um, OK," I continued. "So, how much would it cost to add maternity coverage to my plan?" The answer: Another $600 a month, my daughter not included. Oh, and I couldn't actually give birth to the baby for 12 months after the coverage started, otherwise the procedure wouldn't be covered.
I felt like someone punched me in the gut. Too many questions swirled in my head. Would I still have a $10,000 deductible? What if there are out-of-network doctors? What if the baby comes early? But the one that bubbled up was this: "If you simply included maternity coverage for all of your customers—and we all paid a little bit more for our coverage — wouldn't that work out better for everyone?"
The response: "If we did that, then everyone would want to have a child."
Seared into my brain.
But now, I shall have my revenge.
Because now that the Affordable Care Act is in place, health insurers can no longer charge women a premium for having ovaries, according to healthcare.gov, the ACA website where the uninsured can sign up for plans. Also, if you're already pregnant and signing up for insurance, you can't be denied coverage because of your "pre-existing condition."
As an added bonus, health plans also must cover preventative care, like screening for gestational diabetes, breastfeeding support and well-baby visits. And services such as vision and dental care for children will be covered, too.
This is huge, not only for my own family, but for the many women I know in this town who have longed for another child but simply couldn't swing it financially. I've been trying to price the cost of labor and delivery in this area for several years now; still waiting for callbacks from both Athens hospitals on the prices. (Seriously, St. Mary's and Athens Regional, I've called several departments several times over several years. It's pretty ridiculous.)
For a more general estimate, look up the Healthcare Blue Book. It's a great online tool to find the cost of most any procedure, based on your location. In Athens, the cost for delivery should be $5,900-$8,500. Of course, that doesn't include any pain medication (or to pay for the doctor to administer it), nor does it count your stay in the hospital. Six years ago, my company-sponsored insurer paid $900 a night.
Then I got to thinking: It's roughly $2,600 to have a baby in the United Kingdom. Although, by most accounts I found, the National Health Service will pay for your labor/delivery charges. But I would want to pay my way anyway. I can rent an apartment in Leeds for $2,000, drop another $1,500 on a plane ticket… I think you see where this is going. Dual citizenship!
Bottom line, no matter how you feel about the health insurance changes, you can't deny that this is a big step forward in women's health care and strengthening families. Even if you don't believe health care is a right, every woman has the right to give birth if she wants to, without worrying about how much debt she'll be incurring. If you're pro-family, then embrace Obamacare.