Written by Lacie Glover for U.S. News & World Report
When you’re excited about the arrival of your baby, money may be the last thing you want to think about. But to ensure a bright future for your newest family member, you need to consider the bills that come with delivering your bundle of joy and the other expenses that will follow.
Just giving birth is usually expensive: Vaginal deliveries cost an average of $30,000 in the U.S., while cesareans cost closer to $50,000. You may have health insurance that will cover most of it, but you’ll probably still be on the hook for a portion. Once that final bill comes and it’s time to face the music, here’s what to ask to cover your bases.
1. Can I lower my bill?
Most of the time, you can lower your medical bill through various means like checking for errors and negotiation. Billing errors are common, and even though you’ve got a lot to focus on, you should go over your bills with a clear mind. Your statement should be detailed and itemized, with every procedure, medication and test for you and the baby listed. You’re entitled to receive this, but you’ll probably have to ask for it. So if your bill has just one giant charge or lump sums listed for “laboratory” and “miscellaneous materials,” call the hospital and ask for an itemized statement.
Once you have the list of all charges, check for anything that’s duplicated, unfamiliar or you know you didn’t use, like medications. Highlight these charges along with any others you don’t understand or seem unfair; also note any misspellings or incorrect personal information. You may be able to get the charges removed or lowered by making an appointment with the hospital billing department.
2. What did my insurance cover?
Under the Affordable Care Act, all insurance policies should have maternity benefits, but exactly what they cover varies among companies and policies. Once you’ve looked over your medical bill to check for errors, it’s time to break out your insurance company’s explanation of benefits. This is the document that shows the charges and lists in a table what the insurance company did and did not pay for. The terms can be confusing, so keep a simple guide handy as you look it over. You’ll also want to keep your insurance policy nearby to reference, but it might help to read over the maternity benefits section before.
The medical bill and EOB should have the same charges listed, so if one has more than the other, make note. As you’re checking over what the insurance company did and didn’t pay, keep note of anything that you think the policy should have covered but didn’t.
Once you’ve gone over all these documents, it’s time to bring any errors you found to the attention of both the hospital billing department and the insurance company. Alert both bodies by phone, and make an appointment to see the hospital billing staff in person as soon as you can. They may be able to rebill and resubmit a claim to your health insurance company if they’ve made errors.
3. Do I qualify for financial aid?
Depending on your income and family’s status, you may be able to get financial assistance through the hospital or a charitable organization. Many hospitals offer aid for families with no insurance or those who make up to 400 percent of the federal poverty threshold. Check the hospital’s website or call its patient services line for information.
If you have a deep need, independent charitable organizations may be able to help, and your hospital might have resources on how to apply for aid. If you’re religious, check with leaders of your faith to see if they can direct you toward faith-based charities. Another option may be local Elks chapters, which often help families in their communities pay medical bills.
4. What do I have to pay for next?
After receiving a large hospital bill, you may not think about what expenses come next. In the short term, your baby will need doctor’s visits, clothes, diapers and formula. Make a list of all things large and small that you’ll have to pay for, even if you already have older children and have done this before. Also consider that your health insurance premium may go up now that there’s a new member in your family.
In the long run, you may have to pay for child care, and if you live in a larger city, you might have to put your baby on a waitlist now. And child care isn’t cheap. According to a report last year from Child Care Aware of America, the average annual child care cost for a 4-year-old was higher than the one year of college tuition in 19 states and the District of Columbia in 2012. So make sure to research low-cost, high-quality options in your area to prepare.
5. How should I adjust my budget?
Any time your life changes in a big way, your finances usually follow, so it’s best to be prepared. Every budget is different, so you’ll have to scrutinize where you can cut expenses. Are you quitting your job to care for the baby, or will you now need to budget for child care? Look over your list of new costs and your old budget and see where cuts need to be made to make room for your new expenses. While it’s not always fun to go over your budget and prepare for your financial future, you’ll thank yourself for it later.