In the U.S., it is virtually impossible to avoid some degree of uncertainty and surprise about the costs of having a child. But you can go into the process with as much insight as possible about medical insurance for babies.
Here are key things to know.
What to know about babies' insurance
Five months after Lukas Haeder was born on Feb. 3, 2018, his parents were still receiving hospital bills. Because a babies' insurance isn't automatic, many of those included charges that could be covered retrospectively, but not until they added Lukas to their insurance plan.
"I have a stack of bills from the pregnancy and birth that is a couple of inches thick," says Simon Haeder, Lukas' father and assistant professor of political science at West Virginia University. The charges included $26,755 for genetic testing, $7,000 for brief use of a delivery room, more than $4,600 for room and board, and $4,200 for a doctor who wasn't even present at the birth.
Not all of those costs ended up being covered. According to a study published in Health Affairs, $4,569 is the average out-of-pocket cost for health care from pregnancy through the first three months after birth, as of 2015. Knowing the ins and outs of insurance for babies can help keep those costs down.
1. There is no such thing as insurance for unborn babies
The mother's health insurance usually covers medical care for an unborn baby. The baby does not need—and cannot even get—separate insurance until it is born.
In the U.S., you also cannot get life insurance for an unborn baby, though life insurance for babies, once they're born, is fairly common and can be worthwhile.
2. Make sure your providers are in-network
Using in-network providers where possible will bring you the biggest benefit. If you go to an in-network hospital, most providers working in that hospital will likely be in-network too.
However, some others may not be, particularly anesthesiologists. Call ahead to find out. You may not have a choice, but at least you can know what to expect when the bills arrive.
"When someone comes in and puts that needle in your back, you don't ask whether they're in your network," says Haeder. "You're concerned with other things at that time."
After your baby arrives, choose an in-network pediatrician or family doctor.
3. Add your baby to your insurance quickly
A baby's birth is a "qualifying event" that allows you to enroll the baby outside the usual open enrollment window.
If you have employer-sponsored health insurance, ask HR how to add your little one to your policy. You'll probably have to enroll your child within 30 days of their birth using a birth certificate and maybe a social security number. For private individual plans through the ACA, you usually have 60 days. Your premiums may go up.
"It goes by really fast after you have a baby," says Haeder. "Make the call right away, collect your documents, then get it submitted as soon as you can."
If your child doesn't have coverage, look into federal programs like Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which offer health coverage to low-income families and children. Go to InsureKidsNow.gov to see if you qualify. You can enroll at any time.
4. Ask if you can get your child life insurance through your employer
Buying life insurance for yourself once you become a parent is a good idea, but what about life insurance for babies?
Such insurance would be helpful to pay for funeral expenses if tragedy were to strike. Since the first two years of a child's life have mortality risk, you could pay for life insurance only during that time.
If you get life insurance through your employer, ask if you can put your child on a fairly small policy for a minimal premium. Private life insurance plans for your kids may not be worthwhile, depending on the cost and your level of savings.
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