Hospitals reduce prenatal care rates

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 1, 2009

NATCHEZ — The cost of parenting can get very expensive, very fast.

And a great deal of that expense can come well before childbirth.

Healthcare providers at Natchez Regional Medical Center and at Natchez Community Hospital said the cost of prenatal care and childbirth can be so high that some expecting mothers won’t seek medical care until their nearly at their due date — or in labor.

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Theresa Cole, nurse practice leader at NRMC Women’s Center, said it’s unfortunate that prenatal care is unaffordable for some families.

“That shouldn’t happen,” Cole said.

To help make obstetrical services more affordable to a wider section of the community, both NRMC and Community offer reduced rates for prenatal care and delivery.

Cole said it’s unfortunate, but not uncommon, to have a patient ready to give birth that hasn’t received any prenatal care prior to delivery.

“A woman should not have to allow financial concerns and a lack of insurance to interfere with the health of her unborn child,” Cole said.

Marie O’Neal, Community birthing center director, said she also sees a lack of education keeping expecting mothers out of a doctor’s office until the last minute.

“A lot of women just don’t know,” she said.

“It’s a problem. They need to see a doctor as soon a possible.”

Regional CEO Scott Phillips said the lowered rates were implemented because the hospital had an increased amount of patients that were attempting to negotiate the cost of their bill after delivery.

Phillips said if patients have a clear understating of how much their healthcare and delivery will cost, they’ll be more likely to get all the necessary care they need, and be able to work out a payment plan with the hospital.

“Otherwise they might not get the care they need,” he said. “And that’s not right. This is the community’s hospital and we’re here to provide care to everyone, not just patients with insurance.”

Phillips said qualified women, on average, would pay approximately $1,200 per day for their hospital stay and approximately $2,500 for their doctor’s visits and delivery.

Phillips said that’s a substantial savings considering an insured mother pays between $5,000-$8,000 for the same services.

Community CEO Tim Trottier said he could not provide a figure that represented the average cost for a childbirth at his hospital for an uninsured mother.

Finances aside, Cole said no woman with child should go without prenatal care.

Cole said proper prenatal care is vital to the health of the unborn child and mother.

Becky Fulton, director of Regional’s business office, said the actual cost of each patient’s delivery will depend on their family size and income level.

“All we need is a basic financial statement and proof of income,” Fulton said. “We can figure it out from there.”

Fulton said once mothers know exactly how much their care delivery will cost, they can work with the hospital to make a payment plan if there’s a need.

And it’s that knowledge that Cole hopes will get mothers in the hospital before their due date.

“They need to start getting care as soon as they find out their pregnant,” she said.