The Nic | Finances
For all intensive purposes, the NICU is a godsend! I still marvel at how our doctors and nurses have been able to maintain Ava's health for the last few months. They are prepared for every scenario and for the most part we've been blessed with doctors and nurses who will answer all our questions and concerns. Now as exhausting and frustrating as it can be to not have your baby home with you, it is also the one and only place where your baby needs to be to receive the 24-hour care he or she needs. Most nicu parents would agree that after you’ve been there for a while even the sound of the c-pap and heart rate monitors become a sort of protective peaceful bubble. What’s not so peaceful are all the miscellaneous costs that come with it. I’ve read horror stories on different blogs about parents getting stuck in financial debt and even bankruptcy from having a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit not to mention all the little costs we don’t expect.
Here’s a list of resources I’ve put together of charities and different groups that can help you navigate this.
Your Case Manager is Your Bestfriend | And this is the truth. Your case manager will work with you to keep you informed about all your options. Whether it’s calling to find out how you’re doing, figuring out your benefits or even dropping off a gas gift card, your case manager will always have your best interest at heart and will try to make this process easier. He or she will also connect you with a therapist, a list of pediatricians and even spiritual help if you need it.
Medicaid/SSI for Medicaid | Most preemies and sick babies will qualify for medicaid through SSI. If your child qualifies for Medicaid or receives CHIP they also qualify for free routine check-ups, immunizations, hospital care, dental care, and lab and x-ray services. Medicaid can also act as your secondary insurance to cover anything extra. Click here for more information about medicaid
Alternate routes to qualify for Medicaid
SSI Disability – If your child is in the NICU and was born at or below a certain birth weight or were small for their gestational age they may automatically be eligible for Medicaid through SSI Disability. !f your child qualifies for even $1 of Social Security Disability Income they will receive full Medicaid. Go to www.ssa.gov or call 1-800-772-1213. In my experience, it is easier to find your local SS office and going there to make an appointment. These offices are generally busy and understaffed…you don’t want to be on hold for upwards of an hour everyday for a week like I foolishly did.
Institutional Medicaid – Institutional Medicaid pays for medical expenses for a child who has a hospitalization longer than 30 days regardless of birth weight or family income. Programs vary from state to state and may not be offered where you live. You must apply for Institutional Medicaid prior to discharge. Speak to your NICU social worker or your hospital financial assistance office.
Medicaid Buy-In for Children – This program is for families who have a child with a disability, but earn too much money to get traditional Medicaid. Through this program, families can “buy-in” into Medicaid coverage by making monthly payments.
Health Insurance Premium Payment Programs – HIPP is a Medicaid program that pays for the private health insurance premiums for patients with high medical costs.
Medicaid Waiver Programs – So your family doesn’t meet the strict financial requirements for Medicaid. You can still get help by looking into the federally-mandated, state-run Medicaid Waiver programs for children with health care needs. Go to www.medicaid.gov and click on your state for a list of waiver programs and direct link to your state’s health agency for more information.
Find Affordable Insurance | Go to healthcare.gov to shop for affordable insurance.
Miracle Babies | Miracle babies is a really cool foundation that helps families take care of some of the basic costs associated with having a baby in the NICU. Grants are distributed, based on individual need. Check them out here.
NICU Helping Hands | NHH has a gift card program that helps a lot of families in the NICU. They also have a parent-support network, lactation and breastfeeding network and resources for families that have lost a child.
Set up a payment plan | So you have a $138K balance like I had (and that's just from perinatal care that isn't even Ava's NICU bill). I laughed my butt off when I heard that THAT was MY balance. In part because the girl behind the desk managed to say that with a straight face but I mean honestly, it was either that or yelling at the poor girl who had to give me this news. Well after insurance pays what they can, you’ll be left with a balance. No use losing sleep over it. Talk to your providers and set up a payment plan that works for you and your family and keep it moving.
Ask | Ask about gas and grocery gift cards from your hospital or social worker, ask your family and friends to help cook or purchase items on your registry for baby. I know for me, it’s tough to ask. But I had to get over that really quickly. A lot of your friends and family even women on pregnancy forums will be quick to give you their old bottle heater or bouncer or stroller. Just ask!
Crowd-fund | Crowd funding is a great way to get ready for baby’s arrival. You can share your story, highlight what you need the money for (baby gear, bills, diapers, transportation to and from the NICU etc)
Other Costs | So you might not have crazy bills, or you maybe you do have crazy bills but still need to get the house prepped for your early arrival. Between driving to the hospital everyday, settling payments, working/not working, meeting with doctors, therapists and the like you haven't had the time to do the dishes much less get the baby’s nursery or co-sleeping area together. Maybe you missed your baby shower or everyone’s getting you those cute baby moccasins that will only last a week instead of you know…the crib, or the car seat? Check out Earnest, you can apply for small personal loans to prep the nursery, take care of moving expenses or buy that travel system.
Breast Pump Coverage | Check with your insurance, they’ll most likely cover the cost of your breast pump. Every provider handles this differently. You may be able to pick out whatever pump you want and purchase in-store with proof of insurance or send the bill as a claim or you may have a list of insurance approved breast pumps to pick from. You’ll be pumping a lot while baby is in the NICU. WIC and Medicaid also cover the cost of a breast pump.
Tax-Deductible Costs | Save your receipts for any out-of-pocket medical expenses during baby’s stay in the special care nursery. You may be able to deduct them on your taxes come tax season.
Finally, the most important thing is to reach out, don’t let the big numbers overwhelm you. No one expects you to have it all figured out and people will help out more than you think. Remember that no matter what happens, your baby is safe and finally here with you. Research as much as you can, when you can and take advantage of the ton of resources (financial, emotional, spiritual, medical) out there to help you.
Has your baby/child needed special care? How crazy were those bills?? And how did you manage it?