1. Health
Send to a Friend via Email

Help Paying Your Premature Baby's Medical Bills

By

Updated April 16, 2014

Help Paying Your Premature Baby's Medical Bills
Image © Petr Kratochvil

Cost of NICU Care

Because premature babies require a lot of medical care, paying your medical bills after you’ve had a preemie can get costly. NICU stays for babies born between 32 and 34 weeks gestation average about $31,000, and babies who are born earlier than 32 weeks cost even more. For babies weighing between 501 and 750 grams, treatment costs average $89,564!

Whether you are insured and worried about how you’ll pay your share of your baby’s hospital stay or uninsured and can’t fathom how you’ll manage such a hefty bill on your own, you can take measures to ease the financial strain of having a premature baby.

If You’re Insured

Health insurance will certainly ease the financial responsibilities of having a preemie, but it won’t eliminate them. Out of pocket expenses for NICU care can get expensive, and insurance companies may not cover all aspects of your baby’s stay.
  • Make contact early: The best time to talk about coverage for your new baby is before your baby arrives. During your pregnancy, call your insurance company to find out how to begin coverage for your baby. If you know in advance that you are at risk for having a premature baby, let your insurance company know that and talk about NICU coverage.

    After your baby is admitted to the NICU, contact your insurance company again to let them know. At that time, ask exactly what your financial responsibilities are so that you can start to prepare. Specifically, ask about your copays, deductibles, coverage limits, and services that are and are not covered.

  • Speak with a social worker: Even if you’ve got good insurance, the copays and deductibles that you’re responsible for may overwhelm your finances. If your portion of your hospital bill will be more than what you can afford, ask your nurses or contact the hospital finance office to see if you can meet with a social worker to find out what types of aid are available. You may be eligible to apply for Medicaid or to receive a lower rate for medical care.

  • Don’t be afraid to appeal: If coverage is denied for some or all of your baby’s NICU stay, call your insurance company immediately to find out how you can resolve your claims dispute. You may have several levels of appeal available to you, both within the insurance company and with your state’s department of insurance.

If You’re Uninsured

Because most pregnancies are healthy and most deliveries are uncomplicated, maintaining health coverage during the times in your life when pregnancy is a possibility may seem like an unnecessary expense. If you’re uninsured and you find yourself pregnant or the parent of a newborn who will need special care, there are things you can do to minimize the financial strain of having a baby in the NICU.
  • Apply for Medicaid: As soon as you find out that you’re pregnant, apply for Medicaid. Medicaid is a federal program run by individual states, and the eligibility requirements and services covered vary from state to state. Pregnant women and children under age 6 are considered to be an at risk population, and all states are required to provide coverage to eligible pregnant women and young children.

  • Meet with your hospital’s financial department: As soon as you can, either when you find out you’re pregnant or when you find out that your baby will need to be in the NICU, meet with someone in your hospital’s financial department to discuss your payment options. Many hospitals will offer uninsured people a discounted rate if they request one, will lower the bill for people who earn less than a certain amount of money per year, or will set up interest-free payment plans for people with large hospital bills.

  • Ask for an itemized copy of your bill: Hospital bills are notorious for accidental overcharges. To make sure that you’re not paying $1004.50 for a toothbrush, like one unfortunate patient, ask for an itemized copy of your hospital bill. Review the bill for double charges, services that you didn’t receive, and charges that you don’t understand, then meet with your hospital’s financial department to discuss the charges.

  • Don’t borrow: If your bill overwhelms you to the point where you’re getting calls from collections agencies, collectors may suggest that you borrow or use credit cards or home equity lines of credit to pay your hospital bills. All of these choices come with hefty interest rates that can make your already expensive bill even costlier. It’s almost always cheaper to work out a payment plan with the hospital directly, so save borrowing for a last resort.

Sources:

Kirkby, RN, Sharon, Greenspan, MD, Jay, Kornhauser, MD, Michael, Schneiderman, MD, Roy. “Clinical Outcomes and Cost of the Moderately Preterm Infant.” Advances in Neonatal Care April 2007 7;80-87.

Rogowski, Jeannette. “Measuring the Cost of Neonatal and Perinatal Care.” Pediatrics January 1999 103; 329-335.

State of Connecticut Office of Health Care Access. ”A Guide to Paying Your Hospital Bill.” January 11, 2002. Accessed February 2, 2009 from http://www.ct.gov/ohca/lib/ohca/publications/AGuidetoPayingYourHospitalBill-ENG.pdf

Pullium Weston, Liz. “How to Survive Your Hospital Bills.” March 19, 2007. Accessed February 2, 2009. http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/ManageDebt/HowToSurviveYourHospitalBills.aspx?page=1

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Preemies
  4. Support and Resources
  5. Help Paying Your Premature Baby's Medical Bills

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.