As an expecting parent, you have daily waves of emotion as the big day approaches. Anticipation, anxiety, excitement, and all out fear come and go constantly. You’re wondering what having a kid is really going to be like and if all the stories about sleep deprivation and exhaustion are true. And as you’re buying supplies, building a crib, picking out a rocking chair, assembling a dresser, painting the baby’s room, stocking up on diapers, and buying a bunch of tiny clothes, you’re also hoping you’ll be able to afford to have a kid.
Babies come with a stack of bills, but one of the first expenses you should plan for as a new or expecting parent is health insurance, which is a must for newborns because you’ll be taking them to the doctor a lot. There are well-baby visits just to check on your baby’s development, visits to get shots, and visits to address any issues your baby is having or any of your concerns. My son had issues with his stomach, acid reflux, and constipation, leading to extra trips to the doctor and having to buy prescription medications to get this under control so he would start gaining weight, which he wasn’t doing. There is no way we could have afforded this without insurance — it was hard enough to pay for with insurance.
Also, in most cases, it doesn’t take much for a new parent to rush their baby to the doctor or the emergency room. One strange noise from your baby and off you go, only to be told that it’s nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, you have to pay for the trip. Paying out of your pocket for all of this simply isn’t feasible for most people, and I can’t even guess how much it would cost in addition to all of the other expenses that go along with having a child.
Parents have four main options when it comes to health insurance for their newborn: adding the baby to a parent’s employer-sponsored healthcare plan, adding the baby to a parent’s individual plan, purchasing a plan just for the baby, or enrolling the baby in a state-sponsored program.
Keep in mind that adding a newborn to your existing policy will most likely cause your rate to increase, though how much of an increase will be up to your provider and your state. My wife is a nurse and has healthcare coverage through her job, so adding our son onto her plan didn’t cost anything upfront and only slightly increased her monthly rate. However, costs and coverage will vary for each person.
To prepare for the expense, contact your insurance provider and talk to them about adding a newborn. If you have coverage through your employer, you may be able to do this through your company’s human resources department. It’s best to do this before your child is born because if the rate increase is more than you can afford, you will have some time to shop around and find more affordable coverage.
Another reason why you should talk to your employer or provider about adding your baby to the policy before your child is born is because you may have a limited amount of time to add your newborn to the policy. Carrie McLean, a consumer specialist with eHealthInsurance, said that there is typically a 30-day window to add a newborn to a parent’s employer-based or individual plan after the child is born, otherwise you have to wait until the next open enrollment period.
New parents are busy, tired people, so adding a baby to an insurance plan may get overlooked, and the enrollment window may close. If this happens, but you are going to add your child to your plan as soon as the next open enrollment period comes along, you don’t have to go without coverage for this amount of time.
“If you miss the enrollment window, you may want to consider a short-term plan to temporarily cover the baby; keep in mind, however, that while short-term plans can provide protection in case of serious illness or injury, they often don’t cover preventative care or regular checkups,” she said. Also know that a baby will have several regular checkups in their first few months of life, which can add up quickly if you’re paying out of pocket, but with short-term care, at least you will have the peace of mind that if anything serious does happen, you’ll be covered.
You also have the option of purchasing an individual policy for your child if you don’t have health insurance for yourself or would rather not add them to your plan. “However,” McLean said, “child-only policies are not available in many states, and states where child-only policies are available may limit enrollment to designated open enrollment periods or only with the occurrence of ‘qualifying events.’” You can check with a licensed insurance agent or contact your state’s department of insurance directly to learn whether or not a child-only policy is an option in your state and the requirements of purchasing one if it’s available.
“If no other options are open to you and you can’t afford coverage on your own, you may qualify for government assistance,” McLean said. “Depending on your income, you or the baby may qualify for Medicaid. In some states, there may be other programs available specifically for uninsured infants and children.”
If this seems like the only option for you, you can contact your state’s department of insurance to learn about the eligibility requirements, enrollment periods, and coverage options. McLean also recommends going to the website for Foundation for Health Coverage Education, a non-profit organization, to learn more about state-sponsored health insurance programs.
Several expenses go into having a child, but not many are as vitally important as health insurance. You’re going to have several well-baby visits and regular checkups, and you never know what kind of prescriptions your baby may need or unexpected medical expenses may pop up along the way. The last thing you need as a new parent is to completely drain your bank account or go into debt trying to pay for these things out of your own pocket. So, explore your options before your baby arrives and try to be as financially prepared as possible when it comes to having health insurance for your newborn.
The New Father: Travis King’s adventures as a new dad Baby Takeover | Protective Dad and Bubble Wrap | My Baby Came With a Price Tag | Date Night’s Not So Spontaneous Anymore | Permanence Is an Intimidating Concept | The Gross Out Factor | Going Places | Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help | Parenting Is a Lesson in Teamwork | Juggling the First Holiday | Baby on Board | Dealing With Baby Heartburn | Father and Son, One on One | Diaper Changing, Learning the Hard Way | He's Crying and I'm Freaking Out | My Baby Smiled at Me | Food Sensitivities and the Breastfeeding Baby