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The Expat’s Guide to Maternity Insurance

When to buy, what to ask and how you can cut down on costs.

Birth on a Budget

A basic maternity insurance plan should cover all costs associated with pre- and postnatal care, home or hospital delivery, vaginal or cesarean delivery, as well as any other unpredictable event that arises along the way. 

Thinking of having a baby? The best time to get insured is now, since coverage can take a while to kick in and babies rarely arrive exactly on schedule. Keep in mind that fertility treatments are usually not included, nor are congenital birth defects; both fall under different types of insurance. 

Speak to a specialist before you purchase a plan, since they can vary a lot, and much like childbirth and pregnancy, every plan has it’s own unique qualities.

“When Can I Buy Maternity Insurance?”

This is one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to maternity insurance. Trying to buy a policy when you’re already pregnant is like trying to buy a health insurance plan after falling ill; If you do find coverage, the cost of insurance is likely to exceed that of the treatment.

The Waiting Period for Maternity Insurance 

Most maternity insurance policies have a waiting period before coverage kicks in for the pregnancy, including delivery. Typically they are either designated “from the start of the plan” or “until conception.”

From the Start of the Plan Coverage 

This type of coverage will kick in usually about 10 months after the plan is purchased. Any costs incurred before that date are the insured’s responsibility. For example, if conception occurred five months after purchase, the first five months of the prenatal care would not be covered, but and last four months, including delivery, would be covered. 

Until Conception Coverage 

With this type of coverage, all costs are covered only if conception occurs after the waiting period, typically one year. That means if you buy insurance in January and become pregnant in December, none of your costs will be covered, not even those incurred after the waiting period is over. 

This type of coverage could be considered less reliable, given that the actual date of conception is only an estimate and can be changed based on ultrasound results. If your baby is born prematurely, the date of conception could be called into question. Sometimes insurance companies will calculate backwards from the date of delivery, which can make things even dicier. 

If you buy an “until conception” type of plan, be sure to give yourself at least one month of buffer time, to avoid any headaches.

“I’m Pregnant and Uninsured! What Do I Do?” 

Despite our best efforts, not everything in life goes according to plan. The choices you make during pregnancy can greatly affect the cost of care and delivery. Fortunately there are plenty of ways to cut costs, while all the while giving yourself and your baby a better experience of pregnancy and childbirth.

How to Cut Down on the Cost of Childbirth 

  1. Choose a midwife, if possible. Midwifery care is not only far less expensive than obstetric care, but mothers also get a great deal more personal attention and rates of intervention are much, much lower.

  2. Ask your midwife about homebirth. For low-risk mothers, homebirth is a safe option, less expensive and offers an entirely different experience of childbirth. Not all countries are ideal for homebirth (Hong Kong in particular is one of the least homebirth-friendly countries in the world), but many are.

  3. Inquire about your doctor’s rate of cesarean section. C-section rates are soaring worldwide. Many doctors have rates higher than 50 percent (In Hong Kong, that number can be as high as 80 percent). Seeking out a doctor who favours natural birth, which could save you at least $5,000, often more, since rates of complication are much higher with C-section and could incur further costs, which may or may not be covered by your maternity insurance plan.

  4. Inquire about your care provider’s rate of intervention. Every intervention has the potential to increase costs, from an epidural to a pitocin drip to a forcep delivery. Rates of intervention vary greatly among doctors and midwives. Ask your care provider how they address pain management, what percentage of their mothers receive epidurals, how often they prescribe pitocin, etc.

  5. Buy newborn insurance. While you may not be able to insure yourself, you can most certainly insure your newborn child. Newborn insurance is simply health insurance for babies, and begins from the moment of birth.

  6. Exercise and eat well. The way you approach your pregnancy can make a big difference in the way you birth your baby. Eat your veggies. Take prenatal yoga classes. Look into hypnobirthing. Try not to use ice cream as a cure-all; sugar usually makes things worse in the long run. 

Despite what movies and television lead us to believe, childbirth and pregnancy can be an incredibly rewarding and beautiful experience. Finding the right care provider and feeling fully supported go a long, long way to making that experience a reality. 

Other than your partner, your birth attendant is likely the most influential piece of the puzzle. A good maternity insurance plan will assure that all your options stay open and allow you to design the type of birth that feels right for you and your baby. 

For more information about your maternity insurance options, please feel free to contact us today. Our expert advisors will be more than happy to help with any queries you may still have.

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