An article that posted in the New York Time’s Well column this week talks about what women without health insurance and those with policies that exclude maternal healthcare go through when trying to afford basic obstetric care. This article hit very close to my home. As the woman at the center of this article tried to price epidurals, hot tubs and labor and delivery services she faced an array of sliding price tags that were outrageous and I flashed back to my pregnancy with daughter #2.
I was at the tail end of nursing school and seven months pregnant when my husband’s employer switched insurance providers. The new insurance policy considered my pregnancy a preexisting condition they wouldn’t cover. Essentially, that left me uninsured without the income to accommodate what the hospital estimated would be at least $8000 for basic OB services. When pressed, the hospital refused to break down the prices associated with a vaginal delivery claiming it was unpredictable. They had one price tag for insured patients and another, much higher price for uninsured or underinsured patients like me. That was a long time ago and prices are many times higher now.
With no way to pay that bill, I made a decision that some consider risky, but I considered the only sensible thing to do. I found a midwife (still illegal in my state at that time) with extensive experience and a great reputation. She had an office where she saw patients, a classroom where she offered a thorough prenatal education and a couple bedrooms with double beds, showers and basic delivery equipment.
For $800 this midwife agreed to provide the remainder of my prenatal care, all my delivery services, newborn care and several follow-up postpartum visits. She had an emergency plan in case something went wrong during labor that included a backup obstetrician on-call at a nearby hospital. There wouldn’t, of course, be an epidural on demand in her back-office bedroom, but there’d be a compassionate midwife and trained nurses to take care of my baby and me. 800 bucks or upwards of 8000… the decision came down to cash.