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Born uninsured: The consequences of teen pregnancy

teen pregnancyIf your teen recently told you that she’s pregnant, there’s a lot of planning to do in a short amount of time — including how to get health insurance for your grandchild.

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It’s important to start investigating the insurance options immediately.

If the baby is born with health problems (such as a premature birth, cardiac or circulatory birth defects, or respiratory distress) that require a lengthy hospital stay, uninsured medical expenses will mount quickly. The typical cost to treat neonatal complications is $13,000; the hospital stay alone contributes $2,000 a day to the bill, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The good news is that if your teen is currently on your health plan, and your plan includes maternity coverage, it will extend to your teen. But in most cases the baby cannot be a “dependent” on a grandparent’s health insurance plan. So without proper planning, that baby will be born uninsured.

When private health plans aren’t available, investigate whether the pregnant teen can be enrolled in Medicaid, which requires low-income levels.

Health care resources

Medicaid

State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
877-KIDS-NOW (877-543-7669)

U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Stamps Program

Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC)

Kate Barbier, coordinator of the Teen Pregnancy Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, says pregnant teens often qualify for Medicaid because they usually have no income.

Lisa Dubay, an associate Professor of Health Policy at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says teens can enroll in a Medicaid program that will provide them with one year of coverage after birth.

In addition, Dubay says that the babies of teen mothers can be instantly enrolled in a temporary Medicaid program at the hospital.

“Temporary Medicaid provides three months of coverage. Hospitals have a real incentive to get people enrolled because they receive payments for prenatal care and delivery,” says Dubay. “They are really good at getting kids enrolled in these programs very quickly.”

If a baby doesn’t qualify for Medicaid because his family falls into a higher income bracket, a State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is another option. An example of SCHIP is California’s Healthy Families program. Children can be enrolled in SCHIP only after they are born, and they must be enrolled before they are a month old. Here's a list of SCHIP health insurance programs by state.

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