Financial Help for Premature Babies
Premature Baby Costs
The UK charity, Bliss, estimates that the financial cost of a baby being born premature is £2800, or around US$4500. These are extra expenses, over and above the ordinary costs of a new baby, and include money for travel, car parking, food, premature diapers/nappies and breast pumps. Sometimes there is also a need for accommodation, or for childcare for older siblings. In countries such as the USA, which do not have free health care, the cost may be considerably higher. Hospital care for babies born at below 32 weeks and who weight less than 750 grams is around $90,000! However, help is at hand.
Much of the support that is available is for families with seriously ill children in hospital, but there are some charities who specifically assist families with premature babies.
What this article covers
- What to do if you live in the USA to ensure you are covered for basic hospital costs.
- Help available in the States and elsewhere around the world for some of the extra costs incurred when a premature baby is in hospital.
Who is at risk?
You are at higher risk of having a premature baby if you
- have had a previous premature birth
- are carrying twins or more
- are a teenager
- are over 40
- drink alcohol
- smoke cigarettes
- have any the following conditions or illnesses:
- high blood pressure, whether chronic or pregnancy induced
- poor nutrition or a very low body mass index
- cervix or uterus problems, such as incomplete cervix or placenta abruption
- an infection, particularly urinary tract or uterine
(With proper medical care, the risk can in some cases be reduced for some of these conditions.)
For Mothers in the USA
Before and during pregnancy
If you live in the USA and are planning to become pregnant then make sure you have a good healthcare plan. Even if you don’t fall into a high-risk category, an illness such flu can cause a baby to be born early. However if you are at risk, speak to your insurance company early because some of your baby’s care may not be covered. (To see if you are in a high-risk category see the blue box.)
If you are uninsured
If you are already pregnant and have no insurance you should apply for Medicaid. This is a program for people on low incomes, and eligibility varies from state to state. However, in all states, pregnant women with an income of 133% of the Federal Poverty level or below are classed as “categorically needy,” and many pregnant women with an income above this will be eligible under the “medically needy” classification. (The poverty level varies from state to state.)
If your baby has already been born
If you have insurance
Even if you are already insured, speak to a hospital social worker, because you may be able to apply for Medicaid to cover extra expenses, or you may get a lowered rate of hospital care.
If you have no insurance
If you are uninsured apply for Medicaid. Arrange a meeting with your hospital’s finance department as many will offer a lower rate or will arrange a payment plan. It is likely to cost less to come to an arrangement with your hospital than to borrow from a loan company or credit card. Hospitals will offer a lower interest rate, and some may not charge interest at all. If you still need financial help there are charities you can turn to, some are local, one that covers the USA and on that is worldwide.
Local and Worldwide Support Available From Charities and Other Sources
How to Find Local Financial Assistance
When our second daughter was born 3 months early we lived in the South of England. There the charity The Snowdrop Trust provides emotional, practical and financial support for families of very ill children. This support is not specifically for premature babies, but includes them. We received a grant which contributed towards the cost of travelling to and from the hospital where our baby was in Intensive Care.
It is quite likely that your local area has a similar charity that provides financial support for families with children in hospital. When you have a premature baby it is sometimes easy to forget that includes you.
Ask your baby’s nurses or the Neonatal Unit administrators if they know of any local charities providing support. Some Neonatal units even have notice boards with information for the local area.
One example of a local charity that provides support specifically for premature babies is Warm Hearts-Warm Babies. Volunteers for this charity make clothing and bedding for premature babies in the US State of Colorado.
USA Wide Financial Assistance
In the USA, the charity Miracle Babies provides financial assistance to parents with premature babies. This charity was founded by Dr. Sean Daneshmand after his own daughter was born 6 weeks early in 2002. Based in San Diego, it provides support anywhere in the United States.
To obtain assistance you need to fill out an application form, giving details of income and living expenses. You will also need your social worker to verify that your child is in Neonatal Intensive Care. How much you will receive will depend partly on the ratio of income to expenses, partly on how premature and ill your baby is and partly on how many other parents apply around the same time. The charity processes applications twice a month, on the 5th and 20th.
A link to Miracle Babies’ website is provided in the blue information box: Resources
Worldwide Financial Support
The Ronald McDonald House Charities provides free accommodation for families who have seriously ill children in hospital. This charity has chapters (subdivisions) in 56 countries worldwide. Not all chapters provide accommodation, but many do, with either houses or family rooms being available, depending on location.
Although the fast food chain McDonald’s is the charity’s largest supporter the charity is a non-profit corporation and receive income from a range of corporations and individuals. For more information and to find out if there is a house or room near you, see the link in the Resources box.
Support with Parking charges
One of most common forms of financial assistance available to parents of premature babies is a reduction in the cost of parking charges. Although this may be small in comparison to some other costs, it can mount up. Many hospitals have a system that allows parents of babies in Neonatal units to pay reduced charges. For example, the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary provides a “top-up” card that enables parents to park for a daily rate of less than one third of the normal rate. The hospital where our baby was born had a similar system, but we didn’t think to ask about this, and only found out near the end of her stay. Our experience is not unusual, so ask at your Neonatal Unit reception desk to find out if your hospital runs a reduced-fee scheme.
Financial Help From Employers
In most countries parents are able to obtain paid parental leave following the birth a baby. Most often this is mainly maternity leave with a shorter time granted to fathers. It may be possible for parents to obtain compassionate leave.
The United States is one of only 4 countries world-wide which has no mandatory paid leave for new parents, although this varies from state to state with California, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and Rhode Island all providing some paid leave for mothers. Laws regarding compassionate leave also vary between States, and some employers are more generous than their State law requires, so do ask!
Get emotional support if you need it.
Finally if you are struggling with the emotional upheaval of having premature baby, what you are feeling is normal. Make sure you get the emotional support you need.
Listed below are more of my articles on premature babies, including on how Kangaroo care and massage can help both mother and baby to cope with the experience.