Being Middle Class and Giving Birth in the Age of Obamacare

I love the idea of socialized healthcare. The Affordable Health Care Act is a great way of making health care more affordable for low income people and for a good amount of Americans who sign up for it. That’s not my issue. My issue here is for giving birth as a middle income family, who suddenly qualifies for a tax discount because of the birth of their first child… and trying to get coverage for that new baby for his first month of birth.

It started when we signed up for insurance through the Health Exchange website, way ahead of the deadline. The insurance we had prior was provided by my old employer, via COBRA, and expired in January 2014– we needed to find something quick! My husband and I are both freelancers living in NYC, so buying our own insurance was something we needed to do. I think we were paying about $1100 for the two of us, so we were very excited to see that for about $850 we could have even better coverage through another provider! The due date for our first baby was predicted for December 2013, and since coverage would start on January 2014, we thought it’d be easy to start off the year without any adjustments! Actually, we had also completed the estimate on the Health Exchange website again (to see if we’d qualify for a discount with our newest family member) and we did! But, obviously, we couldn’t apply until his birth, so we waited…

The doctors ended up being a bit off with our calculations, and I ended up giving birth the second week of January, at almost 43 weeks! Two days after, a bit burned out, I went back on the website, went through the all the form pages, and was offered two options. We could add him to Child Health Plus (a government subsidized program) for $30 a month with a nice discount of about $450, OR we could add him to our own insurance for $1250 a month… without any discount. Whaaaaat? Why were we restricted to only two options?

I called into the Health Exchange help line. They notified me that the discount only applied if we signed him up for Child Health Plus… and that was just the way it worked. Another issue, Child Health Plus did not cover retroactively, and took about 30 days to take affect. The Health Exchange rep mentioned the only way to get coverage for the month after his birth would be to sign him up for Medicaid… which we did not qualify for. So that meant, to get the discount, we’d have to let our newborn go without coverage for 30 days after birth??! I was then informed by the representative on the phone, that our current insurance company should cover him for the first 30 days until he had coverage through Child Health Plus, but that I should them call to confirm.

The next seven days were a series of back and fourth calls between the help line at the Health Exchange website and our current insurer to try to figure out who was covering him. There was no way I would feel comfortable letting my baby go without coverage for 30 days. There were too many things that could go wrong the first month after birth, and I needed the ability to bring him to a doctor (or hospital) as needed, without fearing debt.

Using up all the minutes on our family cell phone plan (mostly on hold for an hour at a time, per each call), I received two different responses from our health insurance that he’d be covered for 30 to 60 days after birth. I also received two responses stating that they didn’t know about any such policy and to call the Health Exchange, since they should be covering him. I did also get one response that he would not be covered by our insurance unless he was added to our health plan. Every single time I called the Health Exchange reps, I’d be told that I’d have to work something out with our insurer.

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Four months later, and still figuring this whole thing out!

I am mostly upset that there was no written language of how new births would be handled on the Health Exchange. How can you claim to cover everyone, except for those newly born that aren’t very poor or very rich? It seemed that middle class families were left to fend for themselves, while everyone else was covered. Even with the unknowns of our son’s coverage, I still brought our baby to his first checkup. I wanted to make sure everything was okay. He’s turned out to be a healthy, thriving infant, who is doing great!

It’s now May 2014, and those visits have finally made it through our insurer. Guess what? They sent an ugly rejection letter in the mail, stating they would not cover it. The Pediatrician also sent a bill to the tune of $700 for the two visits in his first month and refuses to offer us a self-paying discount. We’re currently waiting on a response from our insurer, since I did not agree with their determination of benefits for non coverage.  I’m hoping that it doesn’t take a few more months to resolve this issue, nonetheless I’m sure it will.

Neither the Health Exchange or our insurer was very clear on coverage for a newborn for the first 30 days. There is nowhere in writing that stated anything about how it was supposed to be handled. It seems that the only way of handling it is to have the baby covered by Medicaid, isn’t of use if you’re unqualified. If we had the money (and the power) to go back in time, I would have avoided this mess and added him to our plan. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I hope our story brings to light one of the hidden pitfalls of the Health Exchange website. I still feel that it’s a great option for buying your own insurance, but perhaps we would have been more prepared if we had known of the issues with coverage for newborns in the first 30 days.

Babywearing Shmaybewearing!

I had my first baby about four months ago, it’s been a whirlwind of a change! Mostly a change of interests. Being pregnant gave me a glimpse of how different things would become. Suddenly, shopping for a stroller felt like shopping for a car, seeking the perfect balance between something long-lasting and sturdy but also it had to be beautiful and sexy, to look good alongside the rest of the Brooklyn stroller crowd when we went out! Even diapering had a limitless amount of options! We decided to use reusable ones, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of different types of diapers. I probably spent a few weeks researching all the different brands, and a good amount of money buying different styles and different brands. Even now, after purchasing everything we needed, I STILL find myself looking over others’ baby gear at the farmers market, wondering if there is something trendier than what we currently own… so I can eBay our current gear, buy the new gear, all while keeping our baby in trend with the rest!

Mexican Baby Wrap
… and me and the little one in the Mexican cotton / poly blend wrap. Looks beautiful, but its hot as balls, I promise! Cotton only next time!

So naturally the next thing to hit my radar just after his birth… Babywearing! We had purchased an Ergo and Ring Sling prior to the birth, but I found myself not completely happy with either of the two. With the Ergo, it definitely lived up to its name, very ergonomic in feel and function, but I wasn’t really happy with the look. It felt like a backpack for my baby, and I wanted to wear something that looked more natural on me (as I rarely used backpacks before he was born!). As for the ring sling, it was pretty, and I loved the way the fabric draped over me. It is a beautiful blue color, made of cotton gauze, and was extremely light! The breathability of it was even more important, as my fading memories (nightmares) of being pregnant included a ridiculous amount of heat sensitivity. So, I wanted to make sure that I could wear something that wouldn’t bring back the trauma of overheating on short walks. Celebrating the ability to not have to deal with the heat (at least I can take temporary breaks now!). Alas, even the ring sling had its faults, it was extremely uncomfortable for long stretches, bearing all of the baby’s weight on one shoulder!

Someone’s awesome wrap stash on Pinterest… I see a few Didymos Indios in there!!

Accidentally, during the first sleep deprived month, I stumbled on woven wraps. Oh my gosh! So many beautiful patterns, colors, fabric types, and and AND… you could use both shoulders! There were tons of different ways to wear them, and even some great ideas of what to do with the fabric once you’re finished using them. I NEEDED (wanted) to get one! Most countries in Africa and Asia wear their babies in a wrap, a tradition that has carried on to the present. Most of the woven wraps you’ll find on the market are German in origin. Similar to woven wraps are the Moby Wrap and Boba Wrap, they are less expensive but come in limited colors and patterns. Most of what appealed to me about baby wrapping, were with the different patterns and colorways. There are some beautiful jacquard and twill fabrics that are used in woven wraps!

So far, I’ve ordered a Didymos Houndstooth wrap from Germany… but still waiting for that to arrive! So for now, I snagged a ‘like new’ Mahogany Tablecloth on Amazon (for $16 bucks!), and found a tutorial to create a DIY Mei tai, wrap style. These are similar to wraps, in that you still have full back support, wrap-like straps, and more adjustable than the Ergo. But, quicker and easier to use because the wrapping options are limited only to one style of wrap. I also found a seller on Etsy that sells mexican woven wraps that I ordered from, but alas, they are a cotton polyester blend… so it LOOKS amazing, but MAN it is HOT… Polyester is not meant for baby wearing… not in the warmer months at least.

My DIY Tablecloth Mei Tai
My DIY Tablecloth Mei Tai

I love how it turned out! Can’t wait for the real thing to get here… I also just got some beautiful twill fabric in the mail… gonna wrap-ize it ASAP to help with the waiting time for my package to get here from Germany. So excited! Have you heard about wraps before?