I started this blog in part because I wanted to share my experience with Hugo’s uninsured hospital stay this spring. I decided not to write about it until everything was resolved, even though it was at the forefront of my mind at times.
Now we finally got a payment plan from the hospital in writing, and I am pretty tired of thinking about it at this point. I still think it’s important to share, though. I know a lot of people are losing their insurance now, so any voice of experience could be a help and maybe save you some mental energy. This is part 1 of 2 – how Hugo ended up in the hospital (without insurance).
Hugo had his three month doctor’s visit in late March. He got a few shots. I was officially laid off of my job on March 28 at the end of my maternity leave and FMLA. I applied for state Medicaid for Hugo the day I was laid off. I knew he was eligible by reading the income guidelines online. Our governor had recently lowered the income eligibility requirement for parents to the federal poverty level, but children were still eligible for coverage at more reasonable income levels.
We lost our insurance on a Monday. Hugo got a little fever on Wednesday. Even though it had been almost a week since his shots, I thought maybe it was a reaction to the pneumococcal vaccine. My dear friend who is a nurse practitioner thought as much after I sent a handful of worried text messages. Hugo was three and a half months old, so he could have acetaminophen for his fever. It did the trick, every six hours, give or take.
I kept thinking his fever broke but it came back when the Tylenol wore off. I got worried and called his old pediatrician from when he had insurance (they don’t take the state insurance so I knew we had to switch). His fever hit 101 on Thursday. The doctor said we should go to the emergency room since the office wasn’t open. I got defensive because it sounded like such an overreaction.
Again, Hugo woke up crying in the middle of the night when his fever came back but Tylenol kept working. I had made an appointment with a local pediatrician who takes state insurance.
I assumed that when Hugo got his insurance it would be retroactive to when I applied. Of course that’s what I thought. That has been my experience with all the fabulous insurance plans I’ve had through my employers and my parents’ employers for my whole life. I had applied for Medicaid the first possible day. There is normally a three month waiting period but they make an exception if you are laid off. By the way, I had never gone one day without health insurance until March 28.
The pediatrician was great – she listened to us and was very thorough. She said that if we had insurance, she would recommend getting blood work, an x-ray and a urine catheter to look for the source of a possible infection. Since we didn’t have insurance, she said we should go to the emergency room if his fever went over 101.
The Tylenol kept working. Hugo was up pretty late. Rick had been struggling with a cold. He asked me if everything was OK at around 10:30. I thought Hugo was doing better, so Rick took Nyquil so that he could get some rest. I was nursing Hugo to sleep at around 11:00 when he started burning up. His temperature was 103.
We decided to go to Monmouth Medical Center, where Hugo was born. Rick shook off his Nyquil stupor and we piled into the car at around 11:30 – just about the same time we drove to the hospital when my labor was induced. I drove this time with the men in the back seat. That half hour or so was all the sleep Hugo got that night.