October 6, 2014

How Parking Cost Me More Than Having A Baby

Five years ago, Bart and I moved to Boston and both started new jobs.

One morning, about a week after we arrived, we sat down on the living room floor (I specifically remember we were sitting on the floor, which makes it sound like we had no furniture, but. . . we did. In fact, we had more furniture than really could fit into our teeny apartment. I don't know why we opted to sit on the hardwood floor instead), and spent the morning looking over our two health insurance plans.

In the past, we'd had insurance through our universities and through Bart's job, but we'd never had two separate providers to choose from and then a handful of plans through each of those providers.

But we were feeling serious about paying off our student loans as quickly as possible and also looking at the possibility of having our first baby, and we didn't want to pick the wrong insurance that would either cost us an arm and a leg each month or that wouldn't cover enough of the costs when we had a baby.

We spread out alllllll the pages of information from both of our jobs and finally decided that the cheapest option that provided the best coverage was for each of us to go with the insurance through our own jobs.

One of the line items on my insurance that we reread about 10 times was that coverage of maternity care was 100%. That was a big reason we decided I should be covered through my employer's health insurance.

A few months later, we were expecting Ella and the following July, she was born. The only thing we paid for during my entire pregnancy and her birth was $22 of parking at the ultrasound place and $59 of parking at the hospital when she was born (five years later, and I'm still getting sticker shock over the cost of parking in Boston).

Sometimes, I say to Bart out of nowhere, "I really got my money's worth out of that insurance through my job."

Of course, when Ella was about eight months old, a friend of mine asked me about our insurance when she was born and I mentioned we'd paid absolutely nothing and then THAT AFTERNOON I went to the mailbox and found a bill from the hospital to the tune of many hundreds of dollars. When I called in to ask what exactly that bill was for, they told me it was the charge because Ella was born out-of-network.

Um, she most certainly was not born out-of-network,  and after about three minutes the woman on the phone verified that, "Oh, you're correct. I do see here that she was born in-network. I'll go ahead and cancel these charges."

And that is why you never pay a medical bill without asking what, exactly, they're charging you for.

Sometimes I honestly believe that hospitals just send out fake bills and see who pays them without checking why they owe $500 for "hospital charges."

When we moved to Texas, we switched over to a high-deductible plan (after Bart made up some pretty serious Excel spreadsheets to calculate the costs over a several year period. If there's anything to know about being married to an auditor, it's that they will work a lot of late nights and that all the spreadsheets they ever make will be beautiful).

We paid a tiny monthly premium (I believe it was $50) and then both Bart's employer and Bart contributed pre-tax dollars into an account that just sat around earning some interest. By the time Ani was born, there was more than enough to cover our high deductible, and again, we didn't pay anything out of pocket.

And if I knew a lot about our insurance plans then, you can only imagine how much time I've spent reading our current insurance plan and making phone calls to figure out how to do doctor's visits for a pregnancy that's been spent in three different states (which doesn't even count the state this baby will presumably be born in) and now a different country.

That year in Boston, spending a morning looking at health insurance packages seemed like about the most tedious thing imaginable. Now, I kind of love open-enrollment period because it feels like a game to figure out the best plan for our family for that year (you can check out the Aflac website for more information about open-enrollment and picking the best plan for your family).

And when Bart has a full-time job next year, I'll be really really grateful to have that open-enrollment period and employer-provided health insurance again.

Also a paycheck. I'm fairly certain I'll be an enormous fan of that too.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


  1. After five years being self-employed, my husband just took a job at a local law firm. The most exciting part of it for me--besides, yes, the clockwork paycheck--is the benefits. Specifically, health insurance for our whole family with zero premium. ZERO. After years of paying up to $475 a month (A MONTH) for not even very good coverage, I can't believe we have such a great deal. Plus, it's my understanding from the policy that this third child will cost me a maximum of $750 for delivery, no matter what happens. Since my last two ended up costing me around $4,000 each when all was said and done, this is such a relief.

    Sorry for the novel. Can you tell I'm excited? About health insurance. You know you're an adult when . . .

  2. I just gave birth 3 months ago. Less than 24 hours after an admin lady from the hospital handed me a bill for $5000 and asked me for my credit card (3 times by the end of our conversation!). I just laughed and asked if people actually do it. Seriously? I told her to bill my insurance and I'll go through the itemized bill (which I had to request because they don't send you one to begin with!!!) and then pay. I then spent a half hour on the phone disputing ridiculous charges-walking blood to a drop off and charging 3 separate astronomical charges for the blood going to the same place. They didn't even process the blood! A different place did. That bill was only $13. Go figure. I hate hospitals. Good for you to dispute the charges! So many people don't.

  3. Our bill for having Kinsley was over $20,000 before insurance. And that was mainly because she was in the NICU for 32 hours, where they didn't do anything to her/for her except feed her formula. I almost cried more when I found out our insurance covered the entire thing than I did when she was born. Luckily we only paid $12 for parking ;)

  4. "Sometimes I honestly believe that hospitals just send out fake bills and see who pays them without checking why they owe $500 for 'hospital charges.'"

    Oh, me too. I firmly believe that they just throw the first bill out there to see who bites!

  5. And THAT is how you write a sponsored post. And about a dry topic like insurance? I salute you! Wishing you a wonderful time in London!

    Oh, and we are headed to Boston for a day (unfortunately only one) next week with our 3 children. We will be seeing the Make Way for Ducklings statues, parts of the Freedom Trail, but what else would you recommend? My children are pretty close to your girls in age (+ a baby), and they are good little travelers. Any good picnic spots?

  6. There are many ways the Navy makes my life hard, but health insurance isn't one of them. I am on the plan where I pay a miniscule co-pay when I have to go somewhere, but the actual amount I pay out of pocket is capped annually. I never ever reach that cap (and it's pretty low). And maternity care is also covered fully. I did have to pay $120 for the delivery because I was "out of network" - which I knew going into it, but I really wanted my baby at that hospital vs. some of the not-so-good stories of our network hospital. Still not a bad deal. And parking was freeeee!

  7. I JUST got a lab bill for my glucose test. I called the insurance and they'd never received it, even though the lab said they'd sent it through insurance. I had them resubmit and ta-da! It got paid through insurance. (Not to mention the whole ridiculous billing system; the insurance ended up paying $20 when the lab was trying to charge me $150.) So ridiculous.

  8. Just to speak on the side of the hospital/doctor/clinic billing...we live in a world where computers do a lot of work, but they aren't always that smart. On the billing end, and the insurance end, sometimes things just get sent out or input wrong by computers, which is why customer service exists - to try to help you figure out things that have gone wrong.

    Generally they end up calling billing, which is my job all day every day, to help get it fixed. I work the insurance end so when they deny claims, won't pay them etc, I figure it out and get them paid.

    Over half my job, however, is trying to fix stuff because almost NOBODY really understands how their insurance works, what their benefits are etc. You have to do the research she talks about in this post, and then keep researching and keep calling your insurance to make sure you know how things are covered.

    If you get a bill that hasn't gone to insurance at all, it will be for much more than the insurance will pay, or ever have you pay, because that's the point of insurance. They have contracts with different doctors and hospitals which adjust down the original bill, per contract. For the most part doctors aren't/can't just bill whatever they like, either. They bill according to national coding guidelines and there is a check system against this. Also, even though that coding bill might be large, if you don't have insurance the hospital usually still gives a discount on top of what is billed. If you look at your claims/bills closely you'll see that you're never paying what was originally billed.

    The whole system is really super messy and my own novel on insurance and medical billing was probably unnecessary - must have been a long day at work :/ haha

  9. My first two babies were free, too! I have always, and still do, feel so grateful. (I quit my job before #3, so...she wasn't free. Or even close.)

  10. I can't believe they made you pay that much to park at the hospital! Atticus was born at Mt. Auburn in Cambridge and they had a voucher for the hospital stay when you have a baby. I did have to pay whatever percent it was for him, which was $500, but nothing for each dr. visit. With Evelyn I had to pay like $20 for each visit but nothing for the delivery. Weird.

  11. Oh my word! How much does it cost to have a baby if you don't have private insurance? Say, if you're self-employed or unemployed? Do most people have to pay to have their babies delivered?? I can only IMAGINE what it could have cost us to have two babies in the NICU for almost four months! (Plus the surgeries and all the subsequent doctors visits) What do families do when they have kids with ongoing health issues?

    Out of curiosity - what is it like to be living abroad while pregnant, but not planning on having the baby there? Will you have prenatal appointments in the UK?

    1. They declare bankruptcy! Medical bills are by far the leading cause of bankruptcy in the US.

      Our oldest daughter (now 2.5) was in the NICU as well and the whole time I was so grateful for our health insurance. I can't imagine worrying about mountains of medical bills on top of the worry for your terribly sick child.

      Janssen, you write the best sponsored posts. They are always so interesting! Definitely the sign of a talented writer.

  12. Reading this makes me so glad for the NHS in the UK.

  13. Self-employed, carry our own private insurance. Last baby was born in 2010, our share was $14,000 - in Iowa. I did not recieve a c-section or an epideral, and no NICU stay. We now have a different policy, but still privately insured, and having a baby is not even covered, and for that matter either is a vasectomy!

  14. Say what? I hope you know how lucky you are. My husband has a great job and supposedly we have great insurance, but we pay $250 a month out of pocket for our family of 4 to be covered and both babies have cost about $1000 after insurance. We spend hours upon hours disputing bills that "never got sent" or got sent to the wrong people or should never have been sent at all. It's such a joke. We're afraid to use our insurance when the kids get sick because even if we go to one of the doctors they cover, we still get ridiculous amounts of bills in the mail.

  15. Oh my goodness, I'm so jealous right now. Even with my super great insurance (supposedly), we've paid $5,000-8,000 per birth! Arghh....

  16. oh my goodness.....reading things like this make me incredibly thankful for our healthcare system in Canada. I've had two babies and only ever paid for parking too. But there was no drama - I had midwifery care, OB-assisted births, post-partum care (at home!), and all I had to do was show my provincial health card. I got the same care as any other resident would get and from my perspective, it was excellent. Even when things are covered in the US, it just sounds so complicated!

  17. But why didn't you just take the T? Ha!

    In all seriousness, I'm finding that reading all of the extra stuff is definitely worth it. Next time I have a chance to change my plan, I'm going for a higher payment with a lower deductible. This was the year of unplanned doctor visits. :(

  18. My daughter was in the NICU for 5 1/2 months and just came home this Christmas Eve. Our bill was $1.2 million, but of course we only have to pay a fraction of that. Still, we owe a lot. And she has expensive medications/shots/home oxygen, etc., that costs us a ton every month. Boooo.


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