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Financial Resources for Women’s Reproductive Health

There can be many healthcare costs unique to those with internal reproductive organs. Services might include everything from routine checkups (e.g. pap smears) to intermittent testing needs (e.g. testing for bacterial vaginosis) to medication refills (e.g. progestin-based birth control) to pregnancy care (e.g. ultrasounds).

In fact, according to a 2014 report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, women between the ages of 19 and 44 “spent 62 percent more per capita in 2014 than did males in the same age-group.” The majority of this cost was associated with maternity care. The report goes on to note that, “In particular, physician and clinic services spending for females was over 91 percent more than for males.”

It is no stretch to say that these healthcare needs and their associated costs are a significant hurdle for women and other those who have need of them, even with the assistance of healthcare insurance. However, there are many additional financing options and resources available to these individuals, which can alleviate the burdens of unique health care needs.

Financial Assistance for Women Choosing Parenthood

Choosing parenthood is a very expensive decision in general that requires a lot of financial planning for the future, and the healthcare costs of carrying a baby to term are certainly no small part of that. This is especially true in the case of expectant single parents.

The costs of choosing to carry a baby to term may include everything from prenatal vitamins, to ultrasounds, to counseling services to care for related health concerns. Thankfully, there are many resources available for those who choose to proceed with their pregnancy. These resources are often available on a federal, state, and local level. In fact, maternity care and newborn care are deemed essential health benefits under Medicaid and any qualified health plans certified by the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Health Insurance

Health insurance itself can be used as a form of financial aid. Therefore, if you are planning a pregnancy, are currently pregnant, or have recently given birth, reviewing your health insurance coverage will be a good place to start your financial planning needs.

Most types of health insurance cover healthcare costs associated with pregnancy, but it is best to check with your provider to make sure this is the case, as well as to determine if there are any parameters of pregnancy-related coverage that you should be aware of.

If you are planning for a pregnancy and your coverage is not to your liking, it may be helpful to shop around for a different health insurance plan. If you are not covered by health insurance, it may be in your best interest to apply for Medicaid.

Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC)

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) offers federal assistance to low-income women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as children under the age of five. This assistance goes toward proper nutrition and health care.

WIC falls under the jurisdiction of the USDA, which has explicit policy regulations related to non-discrimination, including on the basis of gender expression. However, it is unclear whether there remain any roadblocks to transgender women or those who identify as nonbinary when it comes to application for WIC benefits. Individuals who feel that they have been discriminated against in this capacity can file a discrimination complaint through Form AD-3027.

The following are the requirements for WIC eligibility as provided by the USDA website:

  • Recipients must be women who are pregnant, breastfeeding (up to the infant’s first birthday), or whose pregnancy has ended within the past six months OR infants (up to one year of age) OR children (up to five years of age).
  • Applicants must apply for WIC benefits within the state in which they reside, and follow application procedures as established in that state. Members of indigenous tribes may need to apply for WIC benefits through an Indian Tribal Organization (ITO), and these organizations may have unique requirements for application.
  • Recipients must fall under certain income criteria determined by their state of residence or their ITO. However, according to the USDA website, “The state agency’s income standard must be between 100 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (issued each year by the Department of Health and Human Services), but cannot be more than 185 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines.” Additionally, some women may be eligible for WIC benefits by default based on their participation in other related welfare services and benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
  • Applicants must also be designated as “at nutrition risk” by a medical professional. This can be done for free through a WIC clinic, or through a private avenue of the applicant’s choosing (such as through their family physician). There is a WIC prescreening tool which can help you determine your likelihood for eligibility.

To apply for WIC, visit the website for your home state or ITO, or call the toll-free number.

Collecting Unemployment for Pregnancy and Maternity Leave

While being pregnant doesn’t in and of itself qualify you for unemployment, being let go from your job while pregnant can entitle you to specific protections in addition to standard unemployment benefits. For example, many states require unemployed individuals to continue to seek employment while receiving benefits. However, your state agency may take into consideration what type of work you are physically capable of performing based on your pregnancy.

That being said, it’s important to note that in the case of pregnant individuals, you cannot collect unemployment after electively leaving your job unless you can prove that you were physically incapable of performing job-related activities due to your pregnancy. Also, even in this case, you must make yourself available for more suitable types of work, as previously mentioned. Therefore, unemployment can’t effectively be used as an alternative to paid maternity leave.

In order to collect unemployment benefits, your situation will need to fall under the following criteria:

  • You are unemployed through no fault of your own. It is important to note that being fired does not necessarily disqualify you in this regard. You can request an investigation through your state unemployment office (at no cost to you) to determine whether your termination was due to fault on your part. While such an investigation may delay your reception of benefits, you will typically receive back-pay for the delayed period if it is determined that you do qualify. It is also important for pregnant individuals to note that it is illegal to terminate an employee on the basis of pregnancy or to otherwise discriminate against employees based on pregnancy.
  • You meet wage and work-time requirements as determined by your state. These parameters can be found through your state’s labor office.
  • You meet any other relevant state requirements. Information about such additional requirements should also be available through your state’s labor office.

You can apply through the unemployment insurance office of the state in which you were employed.

Maternity Leave

Per the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), employers with more than fifty employees must offer a minimum of 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave for mothers of newborns or newly adopted children. While this clearly does not protect new mothers from the associated financial loss, additional maternity leave benefits may be available depending on the individual company.

Therefore, it is important for individuals who are planning a pregnancy or are already expecting a child to make sure that they understand the maternity benefits offered by their company, in addition to their legal rights in that regard. If your maternity leave benefits are insufficient, it may also be worthwhile to consider options such as sick leave, paid vacation, personal days, unpaid leave time, or short-term disability. Communication with your company’s HR department may also be a good way to discover options you can pursue.

Financial Assistance for Women Considering Adoption

Putting a child up for adoption isn’t free. However, there are resources that can help you cover adoption expenses, at least to some degree.

Adoption Assistance by State

Each state has its own adoption assistance programs, with unique requirements, parameters, and benefits. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services offers an online tool that can help you determine what these are (as well as other relevant information) in your state.

Can You Get Paid for Adoption?

While adoption isn’t inherently free, it is possible to apply for compensation for adoption expenses. This doesn’t mean that you will make money from the process, but you may not have to lose any. Again, this will depend on the adoption assistance resources available through your state, your community, or private organizations.

Financial Assistance for Women Considering Abortion

For many individuals, unexpected pregnancy is a fact of life. In fact, a 2016 report from the CDC recorded 11.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 years in 48 reporting areas.

Many of the options available in this circumstance are both expensive and time-sensitive. Further complicating the situation is the tenuous ground that many reproductive services stand on legally and financially. However, there are still many resources available to individuals who find themselves in this complicated situation. Furthermore, consultations and procedures through these resources are typically very confidential in nature.

The Hyde Amendment

The Hyde Amendment is a law that prevents federal funding from going toward abortion procedures. The Hyde Amendment went into effect in 1980 and was updated in 1994. The original version of the law only allowed for federal funding for abortions in the case of danger to the life of the mother or baby, while the 1994 update expanded those exceptions to cases of rape and incest.

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization that provides education and services related to reproductive health. Abortion services provided by the Planned Parenthood organization include information, abortion referral, Plan B, abortion pills, in-clinic abortions, and post-abortion care. However, services available depend on the individual location.

You can find a clinic or book an appointment on their website. You can also call them at 1 (800) 230-7526. To utilize Planned Parenthood’s abortion services, you can contact them through any of the given channels and provide them with four weeks of pay stubs (or proof of unemployment if applicable). Proof of income is requested of all prospective patients in order to assess available payment options.

National Abortion Federation

The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is the professional association of abortion providers. It is a network that encapsulates a wide range of providers, including both nonprofit and private clinics. Care provided depends on the individual healthcare provider. NAF simply sets the standards for abortion care and provides information and referral resources. NAF can be contacted over the phone, through social media, at their brick-and-mortar location, or by request form.

National Network of Abortion Funds

The National Network of Abortion Funds is an organization that seeks to offer financial and logistical resources for low-income individuals seeking an abortion. They can be contacted through a request form.

Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP)

The Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP) funds abortion services to increase the accessibility of care for low-income individuals. WRRAP can be contacted over the phone, through social media, at their brick-and-mortar location, or by request form.

Resources for Teen Pregnancy

According to the CDC, 194,377 babies were born to U.S. women between 15 and 19 years old in 2017. The same study reports that although the rate of teen pregnancy in the U.S. is decreasing, it is still significantly higher than that of other developed Western nations.

Pregnancy and its outcomes can be a particularly complicated hurdle for teenagers to manage, and therefore it is extremely important that they have a lot of support during the process. Thankfully, there are many such resources available.

Adoption Services for Teen Moms

Some teenage parents may choose to utilize adoption services. In order to do so, your first step should be to seek out an adoption agency. Adoption agencies can be found with the help of a counselor or through an online directory. These resources also help pregnant teenagers find relevant support groups.

Local Health Clinics

Local health clinics can also be a great resource for pregnant teenagers, as a source of information, referrals, and treatment. Clinics are a great jumping-off point for those who may be uncertain where to start. Furthermore, these clinics help teens access birth control and STD prevention and treatment options. Teenagers can use Teensource.org’s clinic research tool to find a relevant clinic in their area.

Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program

Of course, a vital branch of teen pregnancy resources is pregnancy prevention resources. While there are many teen pregnancy prevention efforts, both local and national, perhaps the most notable is the Office of Population Affairs’ Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program, which provides grants to teen pregnancy prevention efforts throughout the nation. You can look up grantees on their website.

Unplanned Pregnancy Counseling

As previously mentioned, pregnancy can be an especially daunting obstacle for teenagers. Therefore, in addition to the many other resources that pregnant teens will need to utilize, it is incredibly important for them to take advantage of counseling resources.

Counseling resources can be found through many avenues, such as pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, and abortion clinics, or through independent research about general counseling resources in your community. Counselor locator tools can help you find counselors in your area.

Financial Options for Those Seeking Health Services

Women or other individuals with mammaries, internal reproductive organs, etc. need access to specific healthcare specialists throughout their lives to maintain their health. Due to these additional healthcare costs, some individuals can find themselves dealing with unavoidable medical debt. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the financial assistance options available.

Paying Off Medical Bills

If you find yourself already dealing with medical debt, there are many options available to you in terms of paying off the debt, fixing your credit score, and generally giving yourself room to breathe. Some potential options may be:

It may also be helpful in the short term to apply for a credit card or to negotiate your credit limit. However, it is important to note that this should only be used as a short-term fix if you have additional plans in motion to pay back your debt. Otherwise, the use of credit cards to pay off your medical bills could result in further debt and damage to your credit score.

Options for Individuals With Financial Hardship

Not everyone has options available to them in terms of repaying their medical expenses themselves. However, in this case, there are still options available to lessen the blow, such as:

Additional Resources

Additional resources related to health care costs include: