Moms go without prenatal care

Dr. Paul Tullar, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Dr. Paul Tullar, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

AMARILLO, TEXAS - Many expecting mothers are putting their children at risk by going without pre-natal care because of the high costs and poor insurance under Texas law and that's just the tip of the problem.

While there are some amazing insurance plans that cover almost everything, most don't. In Texas, maternity coverage is optional for insurance companies to offer, but if they do, the only benefit they are legally required to provide is the hospital stay following the birth of a child.

"That's just a decision that came about from the legislature," said John Greeley of the Texas Department of Public Insurance.

One example of what's not covered are HIV, syphilis and hepatitis b tests that Texas law requires any pregnant woman seeing a health care provider to get.

"You would expect that they would cover that since we have to get them. There's no saying oh I don't know that or I don't want that," pregnant mom Jessi Dorman said.

But that's just part of it. For a typical low-risk pregnancy, add in pre-natal visits, ultrasounds and more blood work. That leaves just over $7200 worth of out-of-pocket expenses under Texas law.

But instead of racking up bills in the mail, some parents think it is more responsible to just go without much pre-natal care. However doctors say this can have horrible side effects.

"If we don't have prenatal care, we're missing an opportunity to catch as many as half of the complications," Texas Tech Dr. Paul Tullar said.

Because of difficulty covering those costs, local health care experts say many expecting moms are pushed towards taxpayer funded medicaid. At Northwest Texas hospital for example, a whopping 80 percent of babies delivered there are paid for by Medicaid.

Still for those middle class people who don't qualify for Medicaid, like the Dormans, the only real option is to fall behind on their bills.