In the US, about 13% percent of pregnant women lack health insurance. Some may be financially eligible to qualify for programs like Medicaid. This program can help address most to all costs of pregnancy from prenatal visits to delivery and care in a hospital. The hitch is, you have to meet the financial eligibility requirements, and not all women, especially women who work, will qualify.
Some insurance plans offer maternity insurance, and in fact in some states minimum types of pregnancy care coverage may be required if a person is covered by health insurance. Specific amounts of coverage can be variable though, and some women many find themselves without enough insurance to completely cover the costs of a pregnancy. The trouble with being pregnant and trying to get additional insurance, unless you’re getting it through a job, is that many insurance companies treat pregnancy as a pre-existing condition and will not cover it after the fact. Alternately, they do so at very high costs. It is possible to obtain health insurance when you are pregnant that will cover your pregnancy, but cost may be prohibitive.
There are some types of maternity insurance that aren’t actually health insurance. Instead these programs have fees that are usually lower than insurance costs, and they offer discounts on doctor’s visits and hospital care. Virtually all of these plans recommend that if you can qualify for Medicaid, you apply for it first, because these pregnancy discount programs meet only part of your costs. Still, if you are able to afford some of the costs of prenatal care and labor and delivery fees, and don’t qualify for Medicaid, this form of “maternity insurance” may be a good choice.
If women can’t afford or don’t have maternity insurance, they may look to options like making payment arrangements with doctors and hospitals. You should also check to see if local physicians or hospitals offer sliding scale fees, since many of them do so for women without insurance. Some women choose to deliver in birthing centers instead of at hospitals because cost may be about half of a hospital's cost. Birthing centers may be able to make payment arrangements with you too, so you’re not presented with huge bills when you have your baby.
Women in the US should also know that if they lack maternity insurance, most hospitals are obligated to treat them when they are giving birth. Hospitals usually cannot decline to treat a woman who is in active labor, regardless of her ability to pay or of her insurance status. Though having to deliver in this manner may create a financial problem later, it can help insure the health of mother and child during labor. However, it’s recommended that you get regular prenatal care, since women who do not receive this may have complicated labors, and more risk of mortality for infant and mother exists.