Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Planning Ahead Can Cut Maternity Costs

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Planning Ahead Can Cut Maternity Costs

Article excerpt

Even more nerve-wracking than having a baby is finding out afterward that many expenses aren't covered by insurance.

One mother says her insurer rejected $900 in charges from the hospital, another $750 from her obstetrician, and $550 of the anethesiologist's bill. Added to the deductible and 20 percent co-payment on her health plan, this woman's out- of-pocket costs exceeded $3,500.

Dozens of phone calls, resubmissions and heated negotiations later, the total was reduced. However, experts maintain this woman could have saved herself some time and money by planning ahead.

When major medical expenses are foreseeable _ as they generally are with a pregnancy or any other type of elective treatment _ consumers can reduce their chances of suffering expensive surprises by talking money with both their doctors and their insurers long before they enter the hospital.

How does one manage maternity costs? It isn't easy.

"Most of the time you can knock your head against the wall trying to find out in advance what is covered by insurance," said Arthur A. Levin, director of the Center for Medical Consumers in New York.

"Retrospectively, of course, you find out the hard way."

To ensure that most costs are covered by insurance, consumers must be exceptionally persistent _ often aggressive. And they should always refuse to accept vague responses to questions. You also should be aware that there are dozens of little extras that may or may not be covered by an individual health plan. And these little extras can add up to hundreds of dollars.

Financial planning for a pregnancy should start with the first doctor's visit. At that time, many doctors will tell the prospective parents what to expect in turms of doctor's fees for the delivery. They often will specify some extra costs that could be incurred if there are complications.

Where doctors' fees are often predictable, it is much harder to figure out in advance how much you'll spend at the hospital.

A good strategy to get a handle on hospital charges is to request a copy of a recent bill for the same surgery. Many hospitals will provide this, although they will generally erase the actual patient's name and address. …

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