Paying for a hospital birth when you're dead broke

Two years ago I wrote a post for Money Saving Mom about our experience paying cash for the hospital birth of our son

It's been almost four years since I had to deal with being broke AND pregnant. But I think the advice still stands. 

My husband has a better paying job. We have better insurance and we have built up our savings. 

But I still get questions from readers in similar situations we were in asking for tips. 

I got this email from a reader: 

We are planning to do this with our first child and hope we don't have to do it for the others that follow but because of the circumstances at this time it seems it will be unavoidable for baby number 1. How did you go about talking to the hospital about paying cash? Any tips for who in the hospital to talk to and maybe specific questions to ask? Approximately how much should we expect to pay out of pocket? Any specific tips for avoiding unnecessary costs while at the hospital? For now, that's all I have but I may have more later. Thanks for answering! :)

I am certainly happy to answer this reader (or any reader if you want to shoot me an email!).

Sometimes these situations are unavoidable. I hope this is an easy process for anyone going through this. Know that as a new mom, you will be in my prayers.

Note: We did have insurance, it was just really, really, really bad insurance. Our bills reached five digits fast. Because we paid our bill when it was due instead of paying in installments we paid about 20 percent less. Yes, that is a lot. And yes, it is a LOT to pay out of pocket. 

1. Talk to your doctor's office

I talked to the "insurance lady" at my doctors office. 

Here is a little known secret. There is one amount that insurance companies pay and there is another amount the cash patients pay. Ask up front what that cost will be to your OB and then ask if it is cheaper to be cash patient.

Also, your OB's office might still accept installments even if you are a cash patient. It behooves them to do this because they are guaranteed direct payment. 

2. Ask about average costs. 

Call your hospital's billing department and ask up front the average cost for Labor and Delivery and Recovery. 

It pays to price compare. We ended up having our son in the next county because it was cheaper and it turned out the hospital was better. Also call and ask if they offer a cash discount. Often it is 20 percent and a lot of times a hospital will tell you up front. Sometimes the hospital will offer six months interest free payments, this is also a good option for some people. 

3. Ask about separate costs 

 If you're planning on having an epidural that will be billed separately, but the hospital can tell you the average cost.It is usually around $700 - $1,000 

4. Also, limit your stay. 

If your pregnancy is healthy and there are no complications talk to your doctor about leaving early. You might can only stay one night instead of two. And trust me- you will want to go home. 

5. Look for the bonus! 

The hospital will give you a ton of stuff that you have already paid for and you won't be charged extra for, like diapers, extra breast pump supplies, ice packs etc. Put these in your bag and ask for more. 

I know women who chose to forgo the hospital and go to a birthing center. They had great success with this and it was a fraction of the cost. Personally, I want to be where the meds are, but I am a wimp. Also, Alabama doesn't have birthing centers... so there is that. 

Take a deep breath, this is overwhelming. I want to tell you a story to encourage you. 

I was planning on going back to work after my son was born. I had prayed and prayed and prayed that the Lord would provide my husband and I with an opportunity for me to be at home. In the middle of my maternity leave my husband was offered a job OUT OF THE BLUE. He didn't even apply for it and he never interviewed for it. It came with MUCH better benefits, a raise and the opportunity to move 45 minutes away from my parents as opposed to eight hours. 

The Lord delivered. And He will deliver for you. 

What about you? What would you add to this list?