Having a preterm in most cases is an emergency to many. It can wreak havoc to your family’s pocket and poke holes. It is a very expensive affair. I remember a friend during light moments joked that our preterms should be called ‘the millionaire babies’ due to the heavy booklet we received as a bill.

The bills were way beyond one million Kenya shillings ($10,000). A friend of mine had hers go over five million Kenya shillings ($50,000). The Standard Media today has run the story of Makimei who sadly lost her preterm boy born at 25wks-720grams. Sadly she is left with a bill that will cost her Kshs 20,000 per month for the next 58 years!

Majority of Kenyans are not able to afford such medical care, even the few who manage to come up with such an amount, do struggle and run into debts just to offset the bills. Sadly, this also contributes a lot to the high rate of child mortality deaths at birth.

Most insurance companies cannot meet such huge amounts. Maternity Insurance covers could be at around Kshs 200,000 ($2000), yet in NICU, your bill could be rising at an alarming rate of even Kshs 50,000 ($5000) per day in the private hospitals. That again depends on the medication needed for the baby and how many babies you have in NICU supposedly if they are twin or multiples. Most insurance companies do not have covers for preterms.

Nevertheless, here are a few areas that might help a bit when the bill is overwhelming.

Invest in an Insurance Health plan and NHIF beforehand

Whenever a catastrophe strikes or a chronic illness is diagnosed, not having adequate insurance plan can lead to a financial disaster. Find a suitable Insurance health plan that suits your needs and one that you can afford. Enquire around. Some of the insurance companies in Kenya are Madison Insurance, Jubilee Insurance.

NHIF is very affordable than most health insurance, at least, make sure that you are registered with them and pay your dues on time. NHIF is open for all Kenyans whether employed or not, and the rates are customized too to suit different categories of citizens. Find out yours and enroll.

When dealing with your insurance company while in the hospital, make sure to be in touch with them. Find out if they will cover your claim as it should be. Enquire for their Explanations of Benefits document so that you know beforehand to avoid surprises later. If they will not cover some payments, find out why and start planning early on how to pay. There are hospitals that keep patients hostages for not paying bills in time.

Plan Ahead

Visit various hospitals that you might want to deliver at, when pregnant. Look at their maternity packages and find out all the information that you can. Ask from people who have heard their babies at that specific hospital. Consider emergency situations that might arise during pregnancy and delivery, and find out on such too. Be optimistic though and have faith in God that it will be a smooth one all through till you hold your baby in your arms.

While in NICU and NHDU

Know the actual costs of medical procedures, supplies, doctors’ consultation fees and medication while in the hospital. This might be difficult to know but I think one way of knowing could be checking on your bill. For example, on Monday, a lab procedure cost Kshs X, on Tuesday, it was Kshs X again but two weeks down the line it changed to KSHS Y. Try to find out why it could be a technical error.

Track daily your bill especially when you are paying cash. Insurance companies normally have an auditor to go through it. Having preterms mostly means an extended stay at the hospitals for the babies. This will still translate into a huge medical bill (worse in a private hospital), the longer you do not keep track on your bill, the more difficult it will be. Make it habit of always checking in with the accounting and billing office to keep ahead too.

Watch for items that could be charged to you by mistake. This could mean items that your baby never used, there could be duplicate charges, and there could be technical charges. Make sure that you also check on the accommodation charges and watch the timings too. For example, I remember when my baby was transferred from NICU to NHDU, there was an error on the time of the transfer and, as a result, I got charged twice on that day for NICU, it was later corrected when I reported it to the accountant.

 A friend’s baby at one point was to be transferred to NHDU, but because NHDU was overbooked at the time, the baby ended up staying in NICU for a couple of days. NICU and NHDU charges are different, she ended up paying NHDU charges while in NICU (NICU is more expensive).

Make sure your names, insurance policy number and billing code are correct. If supposedly you are staying in a private room or double room, make sure that the correct amount is charged against it.

Ask for a detailed bill

There is a summary of the bill and a detailed bill. The only way to be able to track down your medical expenses frequently is by having the detailed bill. Medications should be listed by name, along with a billing code.

Doctors sometimes recommend certain drugs, place their orders then cancel them. The patient’s record must reflect the correction. If not, it can result in charges for medications that patient didn’t take. I recall this could happen during the nurses’ shift changes. As one nurse once explained to me that if the nurse changing shifts did not update the billing information on a drug or supplies that were canceled, the next one in the next shift would have no way at times to know to correct especially if it was not in the records.

Negotiate your bill

Learn how to negotiate your bill. I never knew this was possible until I read about it. Hospitals are also into a business like any other business. If you go to buy a car or anything, most of us tend to bargain, so why not approach the right person, could be the Billing Manager and give it a try.

Settle into a payment plan and adhere to it. Find out how much insurance companies are paying for the same condition and cost of pool construction to some extent. This information at times could be gotten from their websites if you lucky. Negotiate to pay less the same amount if Insurance companies are billed less for it. Most people who pay cash tend to pay more because of this. When you make a deal, please ensure that it is in writing for future references.

You can also try and approach your Consultants/Pediatricians/Doctors for a discount of the medical fees. Explain to them your situation, be genuine and honest.

Welfare or Charity System

Some hospitals have welfare offices that assist those who are totally unable to pay their bills. They do carry out an investigation though to ensure that you are in need indeed. In urgent situations seek professional help from https://riskfreeserv.com experts. Approach the welfare officer and request for assistance. Some hospitals like government hospitals sometimes wave off some bills.

Other things that you can do are:

  • Try to avoid using credit cards to pay your bills. The hospital might not be interested in negotiation when money is easily available.
  • Try to avoid emergency rooms unless it is necessary. This comes with extra costs, for example, you will pay for the ambulance and its services, when you get to the hospital, you will pay for the recovery room, there could be other extra costs associated with it too.
  • Don’t wait until it is too late. Access medical intervention when it is still early to avoid the emergencies. Here are the signs and symptoms of preterm labor, Please go to the hospital as soon as possible.
  • You can also enquire an interest-free payment plan should you be discharged to pay in installments.
  • Find out what you are to pay and what not to pay. For example some charges could be covered by NHIF such as accommodation.
  • Shop outside for certain things that the hospital allows. In our case, we could buy from outside such items like diapers, baby lotion, soap and oil, feeding equipment, breast milk pump etc as you will be able to look for cheaper varieties rather than sourcing from the hospital’s pharmacy, the charge is usually higher. Carry packed lunch to the hospital and snacks to avoid the hospital cafeteria.
  • Consider asking from family members and friends to assist you to meet your bills.
  • Go to social media and ask for help.

This is a must add. Did you know that by observing hygienic procedures such as handwashing and cooperating with your NICU medics could make your baby stay in the hospital in a short term one?

Note that these are just suggestions that you can try and apply. Success will depend on the hospital policies and mostly in God’s Favor. Wishing you all the best.

Do you have any more suggestions or ideas that you might want to add? Please add them to the comments section below.

Please share this article to reach out to those in need.  God bless you all.

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About Brenda S. Anyumba

Brenda is passionate about raising premature babies and finding solutions to save the increasing numbers of premature babies dying daily in Africa. She had a late preterm baby and an extremely preterm baby. Brenda is also keen on the training of children according to God's will. She reads on 'Kingdom Parenting' and practises the knowledge she learns on her boys and is blessed to share them with you too.