Regardless of your political views about health care and the changes going on in America, this is the story of one small-business owning mom-to-be’s struggle to find health insurance for herself and her baby.
When you find out you’re expecting your first child, you should be brimming with joy and daydreaming of baby names and nursery themes. My pregnancy has not been filled with these happy mama thoughts. Instead, I have been flooded with the looming reality of hospital bills and filled with dread over pending financial struggles.
My husband, Aaron, and I had been trying for a few months to conceive our first child. Like any couple, we were excited about the idea of starting a family.
However, when the stick finally turned pink, my initial excitement was quickly replaced with stress. Weeks prior to that first positive pregnancy test, Aaron and I received notice that our health insurance coverage wouldn’t be available in 2018. With a February 2018 due date hanging over my head, my heart was filled with stress, not joy.
In fact, we held off on trying to start a family for a few years to allow ourselves to get a steady financial foothold. Aaron, a farmer, and I, a photographer, are both self-employed. Being an entrepreneur has been of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Though I have a bachelor’s degree in finance, I could never imagine working for “the man” again.
Health insurance has always been our biggest monthly expense, but we have always budgeted for it and appreciated the coverage we could afford. However, if you’ve seen the news in the last few months, you know that the individual health insurance market is crumbling.
To sum up, there is only one health insurance provider in the state of Iowa that has committed to providing individual health insurance plans in 2018 – at a 57% rate increase. This provider had premiums that were already out of our budget in 2017. There was no way we could afford their plans, especially with a 57% rate hike!
So I spent the earlier months of my pregnancy worrying about not having any coverage options I could afford. No coverage would mean a hospital bill upwards of $20,000 come February 2018. Heaven forbid, if my baby or I experienced any complications needing extensive care… the cost would skyrocket!
From June to September, I fretted daily over our situation. I spent the majority of my free time researching every available alternative.
Most moms-to-be scroll through Instagram, snatching up deals on baby moccasins and taking screenshots of nursery inspiration. I, however, was researching federal health care changes and analyzing every inch of our household budget.
Finally, in the midst of my busiest photography season (October!), I had a breakdown.
I couldn’t handle the stress anymore. I felt like I’d been missing out on enjoying any part of my pregnancy because every kick was just a reminder that I was one day closer to my due date.
In a sleep-deprived, hormone-induced panic attack I blubbered to Aaron, “I’ll just go get a ‘real’ job so we can make sure we have health insurance when the baby comes.” Thankfully, my supportive and level-headed hubby talked me down off my emotional ledge and convinced me we would find a way to make it work.
Well the world works in mysterious ways. Soon after that meltdown, an angel by the name of Debbie, came into our lives. Debbie Sears, of Sears Insurance, helped us reformat my business so I could apply for a small group plan, instead of an individual plan. Debbie worked tirelessly to get us the best coverage possible, at a reasonable rate and held our hands through the entire process.
In early November 2017, we received a simple piece of mail that said our group plan was “approved” and enclosed were our new health insurance cards.
I cried a lot.
Finally, a wave of relief washed over me. Now, instead of worrying about bills and bankruptcy, I do daydream of baby names and nursery themes. Every kick to my ribs brings a little chuckle, instead of serving as a reminder of my looming healthcare crisis.
This whole experience has been trying. But it has taught me that “mom strong” means so much more than the physical ability to bring in 20 bags of groceries in one trip. Instead, it means finding the mental and emotional fortitude to tackle whatever challenges lie in the way for your family and working tirelessly to create the best world possible for your little ones.
About our Guest Blogger, Katie Spellman
Katie Spellman lives outside of Woodward in a 1900’s farmhouse (that is nothing like what you see on Fixer Upper) with her husband, Aaron, and their chocolate lab, Penny. As a native to Woodward, she loves living outside of small-town Iowa but more often than not you’ll find her bopping around Des Moines, sipping lattes at Scenic Route Bakery, and driving around, scoping out new places for photo shoots. Katie loves running her photography business, Spellman Photography and finding joy in capturing special memories for families. You can find Katie on Facebook or Instagram.