IT'S no secret that having a baby is expensive. It is even more expensive for expectant parents who do not have health insurance, or those whose insurance schemes do not cover maternity costs. But even when the insurer agrees to foot th e bill for some maternity expenses, most Jamaican health care facilities, acting on instructions from insurers, require that all payments for maternity services be made upfront, and then the mother can make a claim with her insurance provider for a refund. This can become a real burden for parents, especially those having a baby for the first time.
But not to worry, below we explore some ways in which you can thriftily navigate maternity expenses, with tips from moms, doctors and insurers.
Plan for your pregnancy
Though we know that pregnancies are God's favourite little surprises, and children rarely turn up when we plan for them, it doesn't hurt to have an idea of when you want to start your family so that you can put some financial plans in place. Even after pregnancy, though, some planning can still be done. Do some research on the full cost of having a baby and make a budget. Be sure to factor in health care costs, baby items, and covering basic needs if you will not be receiving paid maternity leave.
“I am an entrepreneur and my business was very young when I had my first child. It was rough because I couldn't just take leave from it for three months and expect to still have a business when I got back. I had to do some serious planning and put in a lot of extra work before my due date, and work while I was spending time at home with my baby too.”
— Marsha, 28, mom of two
Know your insurance policy
Whether you have your own health insurance or you are covered under a group plan, it is always good to know how much coverage you are receiving. If you are covered under your employer's plan, then you can get the details of your coverage from your human resource department. It is very likely that the benefits have been custom-designed to suit your employer, so it's good to know what has been agreed on. While some policies do not cover any maternity costs, some cover a certain percentage of the total sum, or costs up to a certain amount.
“While you are hoping for a normal pregnancy with no complications, it is good to ensure that you have an insurance plan that provides pregnancy complication and newborn coverage. Such a plan will come in handy for emergency C-sections, ectopic pregnancies, stillbirths, and other pregnancy complications. It will also assist if the child is born with certain disabilities or genetic abnormalities.”
— Gavane Hogarth, financial advisor, Sagicor
Choose your hospital wisely
All private and semi-private hospitals in Jamaica require a deposit towards delivery to be paid before you go in to have your baby. The cost of delivery varies among the hospitals, so it is good to do some research before making a booking. It is also good to find out whether your hospital will need you to pay for delivery services upfront, and then you make a claim from your insurance provider, or whether they make arrangements with insurers in advance.
“If you are using health insurance please contact the Business Office with all the necessary information including policy number in advance. We will contact your insurance company to confirm your eligibility and inform you accordingly about your deposit using health insurance.”
— Andrews Memorial Hospital Maternity Patient Guide
There are no user fees at public health facilities in Jamaica. This means that if you receive your antenatal care at your community clinic and deliver your baby at a public hospital, even with complications you will not be expected to pay for anything except about $200 when registering the birth of your baby. Though some women have had less than desirable experiences in public hospitals, others say that they are treated well there and are happy with their birthing experience.
“I gave birth twice at Spanish Town Hospital and both times I was treated very well. I didn't like the food so I let my family bring meals when they came to visit. Apart from that the staff were very nice and they dealt with me professionally, as I dealt with them. The people who always complain about public hospitals are the ones who go there with a bad attitude and expect to be pampered.”
— Carlene, 34, mom of two
THE COST OF GIVING BIRTH PRIVATELY
ANTENATAL care, delivery, and postnatal care for mother and child are free in public health facilities. Some mothers, however, choose to have their babies in private or semi-private hospitals, as they believe the hospital fees are but a small price to pay for their baby's big debut into the world. But how much does it really cost to deliver your baby privately in Jamaica? All Woman did some hospital hopping so you can rest your tired ankles.
The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) is the only private hospital in the Corporate Area that has an antenatal clinic. They have two separate clinics — one public and the other private — and an expectant mother must register in one of these clinics between weeks eight and 16 of pregnancy if she wants to deliver her child at the hospital.
For the public clinic, the total clinic cost is currently $33,500, of which $27,000 is for antenatal visits throughout the pregnancy, and the remaining $6,500 is for the blood tests that are done in early pregnancy. Ultrasound examinations and any other tests that are deemed necessary in the pregnancy must be paid for separately. While the public clinic operates only on specific mornings of the week, those who choose the private clinic benefit from a more flexible visiting arrangement. This would come at a higher cost.
If you choose to deliver at UHWI, you will be required to make a downpayment towards your delivery by the seventh month of pregnancy. For a vaginal delivery, the cost is now $30,000, while the downpayment for a Caesarean section is $120,000. This fee is just a deposit towards delivery, and does not include charges incurred while staying at the hospital or those associated with the care of the newborn baby. UHWI provides in-house obstetricians and midwives to perform deliveries, but if you opt to have your own obstetrician deliver your baby, you will have to pay those costs separately.
At Andrews Memorial Hospital, one of two private maternity hospitals in the Corporate Area, a deposit of $55,000 is required if you expect a normal delivery, and $230,000 if you are scheduled for a C-section. This deposit is to be paid by the seventh month, accompanied by a letter from your obstetrician/gynaecologist, as the hospital does not have them on staff. If, however, your doctor is unable to make it, you can have your baby delivered by a midwife at an additional cost of $15,000. In addition, this hospital provides private rooms at a cost of $14,000 per day, or $11,500 per day for semi-private rooms where you share your room and bathroom with one other patient.
Nuttall Memorial Hospital's deposit rates are $70,000 for a vaginal delivery and $140,000 for a C-section. These fees are to be paid by three months before your scheduled due date.
Meanwhile, at Hargreaves Memorial Hospital in Mandeville, the full cost of a vaginal delivery is estimated at $125,000 and $270,000 for a C-section. Deposits of $75,000 and $160,000 respectively are required for these services.
It is important to note that none of these costs will be your final bill at any of the abovementioned hospitals. Also, if you are scheduled for a vaginal delivery, then end up needing an emergency C-section, you will still be required to pay the full amount for the C-section and have a longer stay in the hospital, if necessary. Except for UHWI, you will need to schedule your antenatal check-ups with your own gynaecologist/obstetrician. It is important to ensure that the specialist you choose is authorised to practise at the hospital you want to give birth at. These doctors charge according to their own discretion, but doctors' fees for delivery can range from $40,000 to $260,000.