Access to care has been a challenge for a myriad of factors. For pregnant women specifically, financial constraints, location, language barriers, bias and inactive health insurance are all common reasons limiting their right to receive maternity care. As a result, many women experience complications that lead to premature pregnancy and a higher risk of mortality and negative outcomes for babies.
If you’re expecting and want to know how to improve access to health care by overcoming care accessibility barriers, here are seven tips you should know.
In This Article
Qualify for Medicaid Special Enrollment Period (SEP)
If you’re pregnant but uninsured because of certain events, like losing the job where your insurance is based on, check if you’re eligible for a SEP to get coverage during pregnancy. The birth of a child will allow you the privilege to sign up for insurance past the standard enrollment period.
If you’ve successfully enrolled, you can get prenatal health care benefits, including outpatient and inpatient services, screenings, labor and delivery services and more. Depending on your state, this coverage can extend up to a year after giving birth. You’ll also receive dental benefits.
To start your application, you can create an account in the Marketplace or apply directly to your state agency. Ensure you report you’re pregnant and need help paying for coverage to lower your monthly premium.
If you don’t qualify for a SEP, you can re-apply within 60 days after giving birth.
Enroll in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
If you’re ineligible for Medicaid because of your income level — you have a household income of 198% up to 202% above the federal poverty level (FPL) — you may enroll for CHIP. Like with other state programs, the requirements for qualification also vary.
CHIP provides coverage for unborn children. In Texas, eligible pregnant women can have up to 20 prenatal visits, some lab tests, education and counseling services, prescriptions and more. After giving birth, the mother can have two postpartum visits while the child receives benefits like checkups, immunizations and medications.
Check Planned Parenthood Centers in Your Area
Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit in-network with most insurance providers. It has centers across the country offering affordable health care for young parents. Some centers also provide comprehensive prenatal care services at zero or reduced cost.
If you can only fund a portion of your prenatal care, it offers a self-pay discount rate where you can pay for medical services directly to your doctor at a lower rate. You may call 1-800-230-7526 to check if you qualify for a program nearby.
Consider Virtual Prenatal Care
The biggest advantage of virtual prenatal care is having more control over where and when you schedule your doctor’s visits. Even if you live in rural areas, you can access care from home using a smartphone or a tablet — no need to travel far distances or pay for transportation services. You can receive high-quality care during pregnancy through video conferencing and only attend in-person appointments when necessary.
Before the virtual prenatal visit, you’ll need to record your weight, blood pressure and the baby’s heart rate using a fetal Doppler or a doctor-recommended device for measuring vitals. Then, upload the figures online at least 48 hours before seeing your doctor so they can review the numbers.
Inquire From Charity Organizations
Charities, like March of Dimes, Birthright International and Catholic Charities improve access to health care by offering maternity care services at no or reduced cost in selected areas. Check if you qualify for some of their programs and receive care, including counseling, access to support resources and referrals to medical services.
Local Catholic Charities offer free pregnancy support services that include counseling and access to educational resources to promote safe pregnancy.
Birthright International helps women with unplanned pregnancies. Its services include pregnancy testing, medical support referrals, financial and legal support and more.
Seek Maternity Care Proactively
Many women from ethnic minority backgrounds fear that a medical professional will disrespect them. So they face a greater risk of maternal outcomes from not seeking the care they need because of bad experiences.
This part of the system is a work in progress. Nevertheless, health care leaders continue to devote more effort to educating the staff to be culturally competent and reduce bias in providing care.
Never hesitate to meet with your doctor for evaluations. If you have challenges communicating, consider choosing multilingual care providers. Exercise your right to get care and ensure you and your baby are safe.
Get Convenient and Rightful Access To Quality Prenatal Care
Prenatal care is essential for both the baby and the mom. Meeting with your obstetrician regularly guarantees your safety throughout pregnancy. Should there be health complications, the doctor can spot problems early on and create a treatment plan for you.
Several options can make prenatal care accessible. You can qualify for Medicaid, CHIP or various services from charities and nonprofit organizations in your area. Inquire about programs where you can get free or low-cost prenatal care and support.