Creatively Financing Your Dream Birth
Robyn Mattox, LM, CPM
Inspiration Family Birth Center
For many parents money is an important factor when paying for prenatal care and the birth of their baby. Home birth or Birth Center Birth can be a great option for the safe, affordable care of yourself and your unborn baby. These options are less expensive than hospital birth, yet has been proven very safe for low risk mothers. Financing these option, however, can be a stumbling block for many who do not have insurance, or whose insurance company will not cover out of hospital birth. Over the years, I have seen many ways of creatively financing a home or birth center birth.
One of the first and foremost options for financing a birth is to pre-plan your pregnancy and its costs. Seeking out and speaking with midwives will give you a solid foundation of numbers to work with. Most midwives offer self pay packages that are reasonable and even discounted! When you pre-plan and save a little each month, you can easily have the basis for your down payments and/or deductibles and co-pays. For Example, if you saved $200.00 a month for 1 year, you would have $2400.00 saved for your care. If you continued to pay $200.00 a month to your midwife during your pregnancy, you would have most of your fee covered in full! Many maternity riders for insurance policies cost much more than this monthly. This “baby fund” can even be started via a wedding gift, or Christmas present. Instead of gifts for the next year, request deposits to your fund! ING Direct has a wonderful free, high interest savings Account program. It is tied to your bank account and you have a small amount automtically withdrawn each week or on what ever schedule you like. You can have multiple savings accounts each withdrawing a small amount. This sets up an “envelope” system. You could have Baby Fund, College Fund, or even a New Car Fund. The possibilities are easy and endless!
When talking about insurance, shopping around ahead of time can go along way. In this case you will need to know what insurance your midwife takes and whether she is in network or out of network with that company. Even if she is out of network, it may be financially better to pay 40% of the fee, rather than 100%. Most midwives actively encourage interviews with them prior to your pregnancy to help you plan ahead.
Many parents find themselves in the unfamiliar territory of a pregnancy that as unplanned, or finances that change, such as lost insurance coverage. You may not have the luxury to pre-plan your finances around having a baby. In those circumstances, the financing needs to be creative to pay for your dream birth. Family and friends can be a good source, but this avenue has a rocky road of pitfalls associated with it. The next few tips are not ideal, but can offer a different way to help cover the cost of your home or birth center birth.
Something to consider is a low or zero interest credit card. Those introductory offers for credit cards can be enticing. Used responsibly this can be a great way to finance a birth, even if your preferred midwife does not take credit cards.
This can be used to make your payments or pay your midwife in full earlier in the pregnancy for a discount. You could use the cash advance feature of most credit cards (although at a higher interest rate), or simply pay other bills with your credit card, up to the amount of your monthly payments to your midwife. For instance, start making your car payment with your credit card, and take the cash you would normally pay your car payment to pay your midwife, if she doesn’t take credit cards. When using this type of creative financing, you will usually have time before any interest starts to accrue on the account. If you pay off the balance before then you have basically gotten an interest free loan!
The trick is to cut it up after that, or simply tuck it away as a medical fund only, should you need it. If you decide to make less payments on the balance, and take it out longer than the introductory period, then paying off a good portion of the balance prior to the interest rate spike, may still leave you in the green. You will have only a small chunk that will collect interest, as opposed to a full balance, and the cash discount given by your midwife for early payment may offset even that interest!
Another tactic would be a home equity loan. These can be easy, convenient and may possibly have tax benefits! The same principle applies, to use a lump sum payment to your midwife to achieve a cash discount and then pay your balance off as your comfortable, aiming at paying of your loan within the 1st year, to save the most money.
Most midwives are also willing to consider a bartering agreement for all or at least part of your bill. Bartering can be a powerful tool. While in many cases the midwife may only barter for part of her fee, as she has out of pocket expenses for your care, which must be taken into account, you will still be further ahead. It never hurts to ask. Readjusting your budget can also help. Think about swapping in your car for one with a lower monthly payment, or taking a year off of some of the luxuries, like dinners out, premium cable channels or selling items gathering dust in your garage. It all adds up.
Here is the bottom line: Home or Birth Center birth is worth the money. Your dream birth is worth the effort. Consider this: Many young girls spend their childhood dreaming and fantasizing about the perfect wedding. The place. The dress. The flowers. The ring. All these images float in our dreams. So what is the average American wedding tab? According to the “American Weddings” study conducted by The Fairchild Bridal Group in 2005, it was $26,327with an average planning time of 1 year. So much goes into planning this one very special wedding day, but when we become pregnant, all of a sudden we are okay with paying our $15.00 co-pay and take what we are handed at the hospital without question. Many do not even spend time choosing their doctors, opting to go with their old stand by GYN, or pick randomly from an insurance provider list to save money.
This day is very, very special. This event, like your wedding is irreplaceable. While you might be lucky enough to get a “do over” with your next birth, this baby’s birth can’t be done again. The outcome of this birth may affect all of your future births as well. Having an unnecessary c-section could affect your plans for years to come. Why is your birth experience any less important than any other special event in your life? As much as we are lead to believe that birth is solely a medical procedure, it isn’t. You DESERVE to be spoiled, pampered and well taken care. Even if that means coming out of pocket for that wonderful water birth you have thought so much about.
I’m hopeful that in the coming years, insurance coverage for home birth will be the norm and those choices between the birth you want and the one you have to settle for are far in the past. Until then, parents will have to continue find creative ways to cover the expenses of their perfect birth.