My wife, Melissa, and I lost our health insurance in July 2014 when we moved our family from Alaska to Florida. We had never heard of health cost sharing, but a friend posted on Facebook how she received help with medical bills through Christian Healthcare Ministries.
I had my doubts; we were accustomed to having health insurance and I only used it once in 15 years. After our big move, though, Melissa didn’t have health insurance through her job and I’m self-employed, so our only option was to go to the Obamacare health exchanges.
I quickly realized the coverage we could get was considerably more expensive than what we had in Alaska through my wife’s former employer. Under the new law, our previous premium of $220 per month would jump to nearly $700—and we wouldn’t get a dime in assistance until we paid our $7,000 deductible. (As a side note, our insurance premiums and deductibles would be even more expensive in 2016 had we not signed up with CHM.)
We took the leap of faith and joined CHM in December 2014; Melissa became pregnant just a few months later with our second child.
Melissa went into labor around 11 p.m. Dec. 6, 2015. God must have known that we needed to get to the hospital quickly; we left our house at 12:07 a.m. and our beautiful daughter, Emmeline, was born just an hour and a half later!
A few weeks after the delivery, Melissa was in the emergency room with postpartum complications, but thankfully it wasn’t serious and she recovered quickly.
Here’s what I learned about handling hospital and other medical costs during a pregnancy:
- Months before Emmeline was born, I called the hospital and asked for its self-pay rates. We were given a prepayment agreement with several options for the type of birth and length of hospital stay. The price was $3,300 plus $500 for each additional day, compared to over $15,000 billed to our insurance company for the birth of our first child, Elijah. I immediately sent the information to CHM via its online Member Portal at chministries.org/members.
- In mid-October I called CHM to inquire about sharing time and told the staff we had to make the full payment before leaving the hospital. By early November we received a check from CHM for the hospital charge, along with some other reimbursements for maternity medical bills.
- Though we knew that other bills (such as anesthesiology and pathology bills) would arrive after the delivery, we received a suspicious $2,589 bill from a doctor we never remembered seeing stating that the treatment was for a humerus fracture. I found myself wondering if our previous insurance would have processed the claim and errantly paid for a bone fracture we never experienced. The ordeal opened our eyes to how easily billing errors can occur and that a great potential for waste exists in our health care system.
- I learned to ask two questions of health care providers: “What is your self-pay rate?” and “If I pay the full balance now, do you offer an additional discount?”*
- It can take time to get the right kind of bills (itemized bills), submit them to CHM and wait for them to go through the sharing process (90-120 days according to CHM’s website). Since a pregnancy is a nine-month marathon, there are numerous bills coming and going during that time and careful record keeping is important—and good for your sanity!
We’re so thankful to be part of a ministry that shares other Christians’ health care bills. I’ve been amazed at how health care prices can be negotiated and I often wonder what we would have done without CHM. Having received help with Emmeline’s birth costs in 2015, we’re glad to now be on the “giving end” in 2016. Making our monthly financial gift to the ministry is easy and painless when we think about how we’re helping other people.
Editor’s note: Learn more about the Cladeks’ maternity experience by reading Derek’s blog (christianhealthshare.com), which contains more insights and tips on interacting with maternity care providers.
*CHM recommends upfront payment of a medical bill only if it totals less than $1,000 or if you receive a discount greater than 40 percent. For bills over $1,000, please contact the CHM Member Advocate department; our staff may be able to negotiate a larger discount on your behalf. Remember, once a bill has been paid, negotiations cease and the opportunity to obtain a larger discount is lost.