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Having Babies Privately Nearly Bankrupted Me: A Case Study

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 25 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
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Emily has her hands full with one year old triplets, all boys and her oldest child, her 5-year old daughter Amy. “When we decided to have another baby after Amy, we didn’t expect three, not even right up until they were born,” laughs Emily.

She is cheerful now but the last few months have been very traumatic for financial as well as medical reasons after she opted to give birth at a private hospital near her home in Sheffield. “I didn’t want to be in the large NHS unit where I had given birth to Amy – I had a very bad time there and because I was having twins, a home birth wasn’t an option. The private hospital was recommended because it offered a much more pleasant atmosphere,” she says.

There appeared to be no reason why Emily could not give birth to the twins naturally and she was admitted early one Monday morning, after contractions began during the night. “Very soon, my plans for a relaxed and happy birth were shattered. The doctor did a routine ultrasound scan to see how the babies were lying and we were all shocked when she said I was having three babies, not two,” says Emily.

Emergency Caesarean

The discovery of a third baby to be born precipitated a medical emergency, particularly as one baby was lying awkwardly. The operating theatre was prepared and Emily had to undergo an emergency caesarean. All three babies were born at just after 2pm in the afternoon but one of them had breathing difficulties and needed extra care right from the start.

“I began to panic that the hospital wouldn’t have the facilities we needed but Thomas rallied within a few hours and we were just relieved that everything had worked out,” says Emily.

A Cost Shock

Happily, the triplets were able to go home after 7 days but then Emily and her husband John got a terrific shock. “John went to see the manager at the hospital and I have never seen anyone look as pale as he did when he got home.” Because of the complications, the emergency caesarean required and the 4 days extra stay in the hospital for Emily and the triplets the bill for her medical care had rocketed from the planned £17 500, which was covered by their insurance, to an astounding £160 000.

“We realised then the dangers of going private with limited health insurance. Our policy only covered a normal birth, not triplets being born in an operating theatre and then aftercare for the one who was ill.”

A Worrying Time

Emily and John then became extremely worried and thought they would lose their home. The worry was compounded by having four small children to look after, three of them tiny babies. “I don’t think either of us slept for more than ten minutes for the first five months,” says Emily.

A colleague at work recommended they contact a company specialising in insurance claims. “We were surprised when we met with the consultant who said that he would negotiate with both the hospital and the insurance company for us. We thought there was no way out.”

Luckily, there was. The consultant contacted the hospital for a meeting and, along with one of their medical experts, pointed out that the hospital was partly responsible for the medical emergency as they should have detected the third baby when they did a routine scan 4 weeks earlier. “We were crying with relief and I could hardly stand when he told us that they had agreed to take on some of the bill – we only had to pay £50 000. Then, the insurance company agreed to double its contribution to £35 000, which meant we had to pay just £15 000, not £160 000. It took all of our savings and we had to sell John’s new car, but at least we survived,” adds Emily.

Both Emily and John admit that, after their experience, they will never go private again, even though the care that they received was excellent. “The worry that if something went wrong we wouldn’t be able to pay would be overwhelming,” says Emily.

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