On July 5, 2006, my husband and I welcomed our precious son into the world. It was a long and very hard labor that concluded with a C-section delivery. I was induced due to be very late, was in labor for thirty-six hours, had two epidurals, C-section delivery, son spent time in NICU due to breathing issues, etc. Needless to say, the charges on our bill were piling up very quickly. The day after the delivery we were greeted by nurses, lactation consultants, doctors, family, and a representative from the financial office. My husband and I almost passed out when we heard the financial representative say, “It is my understanding that you do not have any health insurance.” My son was not even twelve hours old and that is how we woke up. Here is what happened and how we dealt with it.
About a month or two before I was due to deliver, my husband was given the wonderful opportunity to change jobs. It would be an improvement in pay and position. After much prayer and thinking, we accepted the position. We knew there would be a bit of a waiting period before the new health insurance would take effect. We enrolled in COBRA for those months of transition. We also knew that our previous health insurance was the one to have for a baby delivery. So, we began making our COBRA payments as instructed. We were always on time if not early in our payments.
Fast forward back to the hospital room and our encounter with Financial Services. We informed the representative that we indeed have health insurance. It was very good health insurance. We told her about my husband’s change in jobs and how we had been paying in to COBRA for at least a couple months. We had no idea why this was happening. The representative told us that this new information changes everything and that it will all be figured out somehow. Relief was to be had at least for the duration of our hospital stay.
We got home and enjoyed the rest of my husband’s leave from work. It was a time of blessed sleep deprivation and redefining our new family. When the time came for my husband to return to work I knew that it was time to start dealing with this insurance issue. My husband knew full well that this was going to be a long process and told me that I needed to consider it like a part-time job.
My first call was to our COBRA representative with the previous job. It turns out that she had received our payments but only deposited them on certain days of the week. So, the month of our son’s birth the payment was technically late leaving us uninsured for that month (July). She assured us that the coverage was retroactive and that we just had ensure that all medical bills were refiled. I was frustrated that the payments we made on time were actually late leaving us in this whole mess. But, the representative was helpful and guided me through the process.
About a month later we received documents from the hospital saying that without health insurance our medical bills would be almost $20,000. My eyes almost popped out of my head. I thought, “Okay, here we go! Time to start making phone calls.” Every time I received a bill I would call the doctor’s office or hospital and request for them to refile the claim. I made sure that all our COBRA payments were made on time. Each bill required at least three phone calls at the start and then at least three phone calls to confirm my requests were fulfilled. This is how I spent my son’s morning nap times the first few months of his life.
Probably ninety percent of our medical bills from our son’s birth were covered by our insurance and my tenacity with everyone involved insured they got payed by the proper people. There was a remaining $200 bill that was leftover from the doctor’s office that we knew that we were responsible for. We paid it and were thankful that our son’s complicated birth only cost us $200.
Not too long after paying that bill, I received a notice in the main saying that we may be eligible for a special grant from the hospital. It was a grant for families who experienced a complicated birth and were in financial need. We weren’t starving but my husband’s job transition did make us have to tighten our belts for awhile. I called the number on the paper and confirmed that this grant was for real. It turns out that the birth was considered complicated because I was already almost two weeks late, had to be induced, experienced “failure to progress,” and had to have a C-section. The lady told me to apply quickly because there was only so much money to give away each year. I quickly applied and a few weeks later we received a check in the mail for the balance of our bills. Our son’s birth turned out to be free to us.
Dealing with medical bills and insurance during this precious time of my son’s life was the last thing I wanted to be doing. But, I am so thankful that I did it and that my husband pushed me to stick with it. I learned that you have to stay on top of things and that you just can’t assume that things will get done for you. You have to be a squeaky wheel and almost be annoying. Keep making phone calls until what you want is done. Don’t let anyone off the hook. Stick with it. You have to be your own advocate. We have not had anything close to that experience since then but in a way I am thankful for it because I learned a lot and I know what to do from now on.