Pregnancy and Birth Complications May Force Parents to Declare Bankruptcy
Pregnancy can be an incredibly stressful time in a family’s life. Besides the normal fears about health and development, there are dozens of financial considerations to take into account. Health insurance is supposed to help with pregnancy-related costs but unfortunately, that isn’t the case for one Alabama family. After a difficult pregnancy and the premature birth of their daughter, the couple was hit with a bill for $173,000.
Amy Jay and her husband, Mac, were living in North Carolina when Amy became pregnant with their second child. Because she had a history of miscarriages, Jay was prescribed progesterone supplements, a common treatment for women who’ve suffered early pregnancy losses. For some reason, the Jays’ insurance didn’t cover the $200 per month medication. To add insult to injury, their insurance also started denying basic blood and lab tests related to the pregnancy.
The Jays decided to borrow money from family and put additional expenses on their credit cards. “Obviously we chose to do whatever was necessary to keep our growing baby safe and we spent hundreds of dollars out of our own pockets on this drug,” Amy Jay told Mom.me.
It quickly became clear to the Jays that the insurance they were receiving through Mac’s work wasn’t going to cut it. After applying to over 1,000 different openings, Mac was offered a job with great benefits in Alabama. Because there was going to be a month before the new insurance kicked in, the Jays arranged for COBRA health insurance (basically, a temporary continuation of their previous coverage). They finally thought everything was going to be okay…and then their daughter, Evie, was born four weeks early.
Evie required a NICU stay, and Amy also had some post-surgery complications. It was a hectic time made even harder by Mac’s inability to take off more than a couple days, since he’d just started his new job. The Jays said they never heard from anyone at any insurance company (COBRA nor Mac’s former company), so they assumed everything was fine. But two months later, after Evie was home and thriving, the Jays received a bill for $173,000. Amy’s out-of-pocket portion was $8,000, but all of Evie’s expenses were billed directly to the company.
After the Jays did extensive research, they discovered that their baby hadn’t been added to their health plan within 30 days of her birth. “That paperwork, and the initiation of having it done, was, apparently, our responsibility,” Amy explained. “We received no reminder or warning, and because our first child was born under Tricare during my husbandâ€™s time Active Duty in the Army, we had no experience with this kind of thing. We never learned in school anything about health insurance. We were totally uninformed.”
That’s pretty terrible. Yes, it’s the responsibility of the parents to add a child to the insurance, but this was also a very stressful time for the Jays. My oldest was in the NICU and the hospital’s social worker would regular check in with me to make sure my insurance paperwork was squared away. I never would have known to do that otherwise.
The Jays appealed to the insurance company, but they were denied. After exploring several other options, they realized their only option was to declare bankruptcy. Friends of the Jays also set up a GoFundMe to help with their expenses. They hope to work something out with the hospital so they can pay off their bill and possibly avoid bankruptcy.
Amy Jay hopes their experience will help lead to change. “The fact that my story is not uncommon is heartbreaking, as there must be families who are in similar situations, through no fault of their own. This is the reality of health care, and childbirth, in America,” she told Mom.me. “Obviously, I hope that the GoFundMe helps raise enough for us to pay the bill. But I want so much more than that. I want people to be made aware of the reality of the situation in the U.S. I want people to petition their local congresspeople and senators and demand better for the average American family. I want people to be empowered to get educated on their healthcare rights and entitlements, and know and understand their plans and coverage. Ideally, I want reform, but we need to go one step at a time.”
(Image: GoFund Me Amy Jay)