12.12.11 A little legwork and a bit of bravery can save you a bundle.
Even if you have health insurance, you may have high deductibles or steep out-of-pocket maternity costs. To avoid unpleasant surprises, check early on with your insurance company for an estimate of what it will pay and to find out things like whether you're limited to a certain number of ultrasounds.
Then, don't be afraid to negotiate with your doctor, advises Pat Palmer, founder of Medical Billing Advocates of America in Roanoke, Va.: "If you're willing to pay promptly, he or she may be willing to take a reduced rate."
The same goes for midwives and birthing centers. "Some midwives will even barter," says Heather Wineland, owner of The Sanctuary Birth & Family Wellness Center in Los Angeles.
Also ask about birthing center packages. Some end up saving clients considerable cash because they include childbirth education, lactation consultation and even the services of expert insurance billers.
Don't have medical insurance? Call your state's maternal and child health hotline and find out if there's a low-cost maternity program; most states have them. —Victoria Clayton