Pregnant women can use federally funded health centers that permit you to pay what you can afford, based on your income. They can provide complete care when you're pregnant as well as a host of other health services. To find one in your area, type in your address at www.findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov.
Medicaid is a federally funded state-run program that may help low-income families. The Kaiser Family Foundation provides an excellent database detailing what Medicaid may cover, at http://medicaidbenefits.kff.org/. Just click on your state. Unfortunately, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirms there is no centralized federal database to provide pregnant women information on where to go either at local or state levels for Medicaid services.
Each state has a "Women Infants and Children" program, which provides nutritious foods, nutrition education and referrals to health and other social services. Administered by the USDA Food & Nutrition Service, this program covers low income, pregnant, postpartum and breast-feeding women, and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk. A household of four would qualify if its annual income is less than $40,793, according to the USDA Food & Nutrition Services. For more information, go to www.fns.usda.gov/wic. Be sure also to examine other federally sponsored nutritional programs located near the bottom of that same web page.
For information on prenatal services in your community, call 1-800-311-BABY. For information in Spanish: 1-800-504-7081.
The State Children's Health Insurance Program may help children of families who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but can't afford private health. Go to www.insurekidsnow.gov or call 1-877-543-7669.
Indian Health Service provides public health care services to American Indians and Alaskan natives as well as non-Indian women who are pregnant with an eligible Indian's child. Contact www.ihs.gov.
Some labor unions, professional clubs, associations and organizations offer private group plans to members, which may be lower-cost.
- Talk to your hospital about a payment plan. Negotiate fiercely and try to obtain a list of all fees and necessary services in advance.
- A birthing center. This may cost $3,000 to $4,000, compared with $10,000 for a hospital. But consider this only if you are perfectly healthy and expect no complications. Find whether the center is properly licensed in your state and check staff credentials. You can search for a birthing center at www.birthcenters.org.
- Consider a midwife. Midwives charge less than one-third for their services compared with regular hospital care, and many prefer the personal touch and the natural nature of childbirth through a midwife. Ask your doctor or hospital for referrals. You also can search a data base at the American College of Nurse-Midwives at www.midwife.org. But shop around and carefully evaluate credentials, built-in safeguards, cleanliness and what insurance exists on the facility and/or midwife in the event of a problem.