Losing my insurance the month I'll be giving birth
February 14, 2012 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Please help me deal with insurance coverage, while pregnant and a student

I just found out I'm pregnant; I'm a graduate student who is planning on finishing my degree. I'm due about two weeks into fall quarter. This'll be my and my husband's first child.

I currently have health insurance through the school; however, I don't qualify for coverage when I am on leave. My husband doesn't have insurance through his job (we pay for high deductible coverage through a third party). I'm currently working part time, but don't have insurance through the job, and will be quitting soon. We don't make a lot of money, but we also don't qualify for any low-income insurance programs.

During what's supposed to be this really happy, exciting time for me, I'm suddenly really stressed out and upset; I don't even know where to start.

I made an appointment with the graduate student office at my college for later this week, but the school website explictly says I don't qualify for coverage if I'm on leave, and in the past, the graduate student office hasn't been a huge advocate for me, so I don't have terribly high hopes. My academic advisor suggested signing up for a class or two during fall quarter, but unless every parent I know has been misleading me about how challenging the first three months of life are, the idea of going to class, giving birth, and then coming back to finish up the quarter with a newborn at the house. . . I don't know. It seems difficult.

I can't be the only student at the school in this position. What are some resources for women in my position?

Who should I talk to, and what do I need to ask?

I live in Seattle, and am a student at UW.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Look into Medicaid in your state. Pregnancy is a covered condition, and your baby would qualify for Medicaid upon birth.

It's likely your best option in your position right now.
posted by zizzle at 7:31 AM on February 14, 2012

We don't make a lot of money, but we also don't qualify for any low-income insurance programs.

Actually, you might. You may not qualify for yourselves, as such, but most states have different rules for pregnant women regarding Medicaid eligibility. If you look at the Washington DSHS document, it shows that the income limits fo the Family Medical Program are $453 a month for two people, but $2,268 a month for two people.

You'll need to look into it more thoroughly, but be aware that there are state programs out there specifically targeted at pregnant women and small children. You'd also probably qualify for WIC benefits.
posted by valkyryn at 7:33 AM on February 14, 2012

If the above doesnt work out, can you sign up for research hours with your advisor and keep your health insurance that way? If I had a student in your position I would let her sign up for fall research hours and delineate research goals to be met before the fall starts to fulfill the hours.
posted by girl scientist at 7:40 AM on February 14, 2012


I was in similar circumstances. At my U these were my options - all of which meant that I didn't actually take leave.

Just take 1 class... Really. I know it would suck, but I did it. (Although I gave birth in the middle of the quarter). Find the most understanding faculty you can. Skip week of birth. And then go after that. Have husband sit in your office with baby and you breastfeed before and after class in your office. You'll be able to do it and you need to do it to keep your student status.

Or, can your advisor offer you independent study credit? Easy peasy.

If it doesn't work well in either, you take an incomplete. It isn't that big of a deal.

I say this as someone who had a baby in mid November during a class, finished the class, TA'd in winter quarter 2x a week with an infant and wrote comps when he was 3 months - 6 months. It sucks but it works. You need a supportive husband tho.

Also, I convinced my department to help me out with a fake TAship (photocopy, grade from home) so that I'd have money and insurance coverage.

THIS IS DOABLE. Hell, your advisor suggested you do it. So do it.

Memail me if you want to chat. Hey, I'll be a faculty member at UW in the fall. I think my grad class is closed to just my department, but if it isn't, you're welcome to work with me in that class (Mobile Communication) or as an independent study if it makes sense.
posted by k8t at 7:41 AM on February 14, 2012 [9 favorites]

This is definitely not the ideal scenario, as you mention, but I was a semester and a half away from graduation when my first was born. I worked it out so I had only online courses left and I worked as far ahead as I could in the classes I was taking in my "due month". It worked out just fine. Newborns sleep quite a bit, and when they aren't sleeping, they're nursing. I solved the common "do not put me down, ever!" newborn issue with a Moby wrap and a ring sling- which allowed me to work on classes and move around, etc with both hands available.

So, yeah, it's hard, but not impossible.
posted by LyndsayMW at 7:43 AM on February 14, 2012

Just take 1 class... If it doesn't work well in either, you take an incomplete. It isn't that big of a deal.

This is exactly what I was thinking.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:45 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another option is to do the independent study work in the summer and ask your advisor to let it be on the books for fall. Not everyone is willing to do this, but it sounds like you have a good relationship with your advisor if you disclosed your pregnancy to him/her this early.
posted by k8t at 7:49 AM on February 14, 2012

Definitely, independent study towards your thesis, supervised by your advisor. That should work.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 7:58 AM on February 14, 2012

I was also going to suggest doing an independent study, or even two if you need a certain number of credits to qualify for insurance. I was thinking you could just take an incomplete if you don't manage to get the work done after having your baby, but doing the work earlier over the summer sounds like a better idea. Your advisor and department secretary can help you figure out how to do the paperwork.

(I'm in pretty much the same position, but due a little later in the semester. Eep.)
posted by apricot at 8:53 AM on February 14, 2012

Hi anonymous,

I paid the $5 so that I could give you my $.02.

Congratulations on your pregnancy! That is very exciting! Please don't let the insurance issue freak you out too much. You'll find a solution and it will be ok.

I'm a student at UW Seattle (professional degree program) and just had my first baby. I agree with your gut instinct that it'd be too much to take classes right after the baby is born. My baby was due the week after autumn quarter finals week, so I decided to do that quarter as a regular full-time student. That was hard enough but I made it through -- and that's in a department that seems more baby-friendly than other corners of academia. But I cannot imagine trying to get to any class while recovering from the birth and taking care of a newborn. (Plus figuring out a sitter for your baby, pumping and storing milk if you're breastfeeding, and so forth ...!) If your baby is on time, that means he or she will be hitting the 6 week peak of crying right around the time you're trying to study for a final exam or finish a paper. Yikes.

I assume you've already seen this?: http://depts.washington.edu/ovpsl/insurance/documents/2011-2012%20Booklet.pdf

From my reading of it, it looks like although you need to be enrolled, there is no minimum credit hour requirement. I guess you've talked to the Student Health Insurance Office? Don't use words like "leave" with them ... sometimes admin/adviser types at UW get stuck in one way of thinking and are not problem-solvers. So perhaps a 1-credit independent study setup is all you need to maintain the insurance, but you're the one who has to verbalize that option. Perhaps it could be something as simple as a partial lit review in your field under the supervision of a sympathetic professor? Is there anyone in your program who has young children, either fellow students or professors?

I'm concerned that your adviser suggested that you "... sign up for a class or two." That sounds like your adviser doesn't understand what it's like to have a new baby (understandable) or what the requirements are to keep you on the student health insurance and maintain your status in your department. Taking a class or two fall quarter involves missing at least a week of class, or more, which is a substantial chunk in the quarter system, and instructors can drop you from the course if you're not attending in the early weeks. Of course they can't penalize you for medical reasons, but it's helpful to have someone in your department who is in your corner. It sounds like your adviser wouldn't be able to do that, so find the easiest solution possible. I suspect it's less headache for everyone involved -- you, your partner, your baby, the professors, and your dopey adviser -- if you don't take a class or two. Or if you do, take one with k8t. Again, find someone sympathetic who can back you up.

In my situation, I had considered going back for winter quarter for one class (which would have been ~2.5 weeks after my baby's due date). I talked to my care providers, my adviser (a parent of young children himself), and some "mom friends." At first the other moms and care providers said, "Yeah, it's tough, but you could do it, I know you want to get through your program quickly ..." but after about a week each of those people contacted me to say that they had been thinking about it, and they felt they should tell me it was a really bad idea and gave specific reasons why (sleep deprivation being the biggest factor). Then I heard the stories of how it led to PPD for several women, especially the ones in challenging academic programs. Ugh. (My adviser didn't recommend coming back too quickly, and worked with me to develop an appropriate plan for graduation.) My baby is fairly relaxed and I feel like have a good handle on things, but it's just a lucky chance that I'm alert enough to write this answer to you this morning. I had an usually large amount of sleep last night, 6 hours (and that was a patchwork). Last week when my classmates were cramming for midterms, I happened to be getting 3 - 4 hours of patchwork sleep a night.

Enrolling just to drop later in the quarter, or intentionally take incompletes, is the costliest option, and probably pretty stressful. Find the independent study option!

Some other resources that you may find helpful:
That page is just about child care, but my understanding is that the parent resource center offers more than a list of daycare providers.

I hope this helps a little. It'll work out! I see a lot of pregnant grad students floating around campus - you're definitely not the only one who has dealt with this. :)

ps: This isn't in relation to your question, but perhaps think about shopping around for a family insurance plan (either for you and baby, or you, husband and baby). Buying health insurance in WA state is not nearly as difficult or costly as in other states. (Of course, I guess you might have aid from your department that buys it for you and you'd lose that money if you wanted outside insurance.) The student health insurance doesn't cover as much as other plans, and it'd probably be beneficial for your family not to have coverage dependent on your student status. Just a thought.
posted by stowaway at 10:27 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sign up for an independent study with your advisor.

Also, look into WIC.
posted by spunweb at 11:34 AM on February 14, 2012

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