Tiny-Small is pushing 2 years old and I am sort of pushing 40. I still have a few years to go, but I can feel it breathing down my neck like Rosie does when she is anticipating a dog bone or a walk. My husband and I are asked on a regular basis when child number two is coming or, “When are you going to give that little girl a sister or a brother?” Insert wiggly eyes and goofy smiles along with every comment. Anyway, we started thinking about it too, in part because of the almost daily reminders from friends and family, and well, my biological clock IS ticking, ticking, ticking…. I am getting closer and closer to 40 and I know my chances of having a less healthy baby increases with every week I age. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tiny-Small is growing up and if we are going to have more than one chlid we better do it soon, right?
When I was pregnant with Tiny-Small we discovered my health insurance didn’t cover pregnancy. Apparently Blue Cross Blue Shield has determined that pregnancy is a pre existing condition even if the condition was not pre existing when you started the policy. Luckily, at that time New Mexico had a program for all pregnant women called Premium Assistance Maternity (PAM) insurance that we could purchase for $500.00. I had to jump through several hoops and fill out paperwork until my carpel tunnel erupted, but finally most of my pregnancy and deliver were covered. I paid a few thousand dollars in doctors bills for the first three months of my pregnancy (it took three months for the PAM to start) but at least I was covered for the $10,000 plus hospital stay and all of the procedures leading up to that. In short, it was a financial life saver, a godsend, and the only thing keeping us from the possibility of complete financial ruin and bankruptcy. Two days in the ICU does not come cheap.
We now have a new governor. Governor Martinez was elected and she cut the PAM program as soon as she possibly could along with several other programs like low cost insurance for children of working families. These are families that make too much to qualify for medicaid and do not have access to health insurance through their jobs. In fact, most of the people I know who work full time jobs don’t have access to health insurance through their employers or their jobs. We seem to be a state with few employee benefits, but I guess that should be expected in a state that doesn’t even require employers to offer their employees a lunch break ( that’s even when they work an 8 hour shift). Now I am left wondering how do I have another baby. Can we afford to have another baby? Where do I get insurance now? My private health plan isn’t going to cover it. I know that for sure!
My husband called and made an appointment with a local insurance agency. Over the phone the insurance agent informed us that, in the state of New Mexico, there are absolutely no insurance companies or insurance plans that cover pregnancy. If, and when, I get pregnant again we will have to apply to the New Mexico High Risk Insurance Pool. This is a state-run pool usually reserved for people who are deemed uninsurable due to having cancer or some other expensive disease insurance companies do not want to pay for. In this state, pregnancy is considered a high risk disease. I will likely have to pay an exorbitantly high monthly premium in order to have my next pregnancy covered. I am guessing this is one of the reasons why New Mexico has such a high infant mortality rate, why so many children end up suffering from developmental delays, and why we were declared the worst state for children by the Foundation for Child Development. In short, most pregnant women probably don’t get insurance and don’t go to the doctor while they are pregnant. At least not as often as they should. They can’t afford to. According to Childrensdefense.org a child in New Mexico (in 2011) dies before his or her first birthday every two days. The other statistics presented on this page are too depressing to list here, but I encourage you to check them out, especially if you are a New Mexico resident. I am beginning to wonder if living here is a good choice for families or more specifically my family, but on the other hand people like me need to stay here and try to make it better. When I say people like me I mean mothers, people with friends, and people who actually care about other human beings. In short, I mean all of us. This isn’t right and it doesn’t make me proud of my state. In fact, when I read that over 15% of our our children do not have medical insurance, that 80% of our fourth grades do not read at grade level, and that 10,984 high school students drop out annually I felt ashamed and also a little disgusted. I think we can do better than this and I also think an opportunity for a healthy, happy, and productive life starts with good prenatal care.
Next Monday we meet with the insurance agent in person to get all of the gruesome details. I’ll let you know what we come up with after our meeting with the insurance guru. It’s a little sad to think that the decision to have another baby has to be made in this way. If a different governor had been elected, if the insurance company actually covered pregnancy, if we lived in a different state or even a different country might a different decision be made? Would Tiny-Small have more siblings if we made less money and qualified for medicaid or if we made much more money and could afford to pay out of pocket for any medical surprise that might come our way? It’s an unfortunate and uncomfortable process because in the end I am not sure I am the one actually making the decisions. I know having a baby is always partially a financial decision, but it feels like a factor that has more weight than it really should or than it did even just a few years ago. We are trying to live responsibly, but sometimes it doesn’t seem like it pays off in the end. When I look at these pictures I can’t imagine not having a Tiny-Small-2, but when I look at out bank account I am not sure we can afford to have another baby. What if something goes horribly wrong with my pregnancy? I know a woman that calls her son “the million dollar baby.” He was born premature, flown by helicopter to Albuquerque for neonatal care and was in the hospital for over three months. I have no doubt his medical expenses were outrageous. How can I risk it? All I can do now is hope for some kind of insurance miracle. It happened last time so maybe there is still hope.