Friday, June 17, 2011

Health Insurance for Residents - Great Until You Need It!

One week from today we'll be in the hospital having our baby! I should thank the nice lady from hospital pre-registration for calling me and reminding me.... I would not have forgotten.

What should be a time filled with hope, excitement, and possibilities is intertwined with the nagging knowledge that in about six weeks after delivery the medical bills will start rolling in. The part that isn't included in our deductible and the portion our insurance deems our responsibility. So after paying our monthly premiums, a deductible of $1,200 plus 10% of all charges (and that's the discounted rate), it's not pretty. But what is even worse is that the plan changed in January and by my calculations it is going to be more expensive this time around. I believe their intent was to make "health care" more affordable by lowering the premiums a little bit, but charging more when services were required. That doesn't really help unless you never need healthcare. And they only time we do is when we have babies - and it happens to be expensive.

I made a few naive assumptions about my husbands role in medicine and what that would mean for our own health care. See in my mind those individuals involved directly in providing the services would have the best benefits, right? Not necessarily.

My points of reference for maternity care and insurance were relatively narrow.  My three sisters have all had children. One of them was under military insurance and didn't pay for her health care, which would make sense. I know our troops get excellent care, and I am glad they do. But considering their salaries I would expect no less. My other two sisters work as medical transcriptionists for a local hospital in their state affiliated with a state university and their out of pocket expenses were less than $50 for each delivery.

What further added to my confusion was that when our first son was born,  between my husbands MS3 and MS4 he was doing research with a state university, and we were covered under their plan. We had the same insurance that state employees had - in summary it was awesome! We paid our premiums every month, had no deductible, and the full amount of my c-section delivery was covered. Not a single bill was ever passed to us.

My friends, living in town working for that large national employer I mentioned in another post, all receive 100% covered maternity care.

So using what little knowledge I had of maternity care and insurance, based on examples in my family and friends, I really believed that hospital workers, but especially residents and their families, would have at least the same degree of coverage. Boy was I wrong! We were already expecting when we started residency and didn't know the plans coverage and limits. You can imagine our surprise when the bills started rolling in! When it was all said and done the portion we were responsible for was $2,500.

My husbands residency is at a private hospital without connections to a state government. Maybe that is the difference. Regardless, I think who ever was in charge of selecting the plan they would offer their employees should be fired. Or maybe that is just another way to discourage residents from having children during residency.

So while I am excited about the arrival of our new baby I am also worrying about the $2,500 that will be due in about 7 weeks. We have it saved, because after having two children under this insurance we knew what to expect and planned accordingly. But in 7 weeks our bank balance will be zero yet again.

There are some things I will never understand about the business of having babies. If I could have them naturally I would, but my anatomy doesn't seem to know how to do it and therefore, I have c-sections. I realize c-sections are surgery and surgery is never an inexpensive endeavor, and more expensive than a regular delivery. But what really gets me sometimes is that I could probably have "aborted" for free (I never would under any circumstance). Some government entity would have fully funded that choice. But to have a baby that is wanted, will be loved, whose presence will contribute to the economy for years (have you seen the stats on how much it takes to raise a child to age 18), and will eventually become a tax payer - it doesn't make sense.

But mostly I'm just irritated that the same hospital that has worked my husband for 80 hours per week, for what will be 6 years, cannot provide coverage to their employees and families that relieves them of some financial burden when it comes to providing for their own health. It seems the least they could do.

Advice: know your hospitals insurance plan, talk to residents wives who have delivered under the plan, and start saving your money. Unless of course your program has a generous insurance package, then go straight to the hospital and have a baby.

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