• Whitney

Don't Worry, Baby

Tennessee is currently a very conservative state. This is America and our differences are what make this such a great country. This does mean, however, that men are voting on all things lady-related. Anything having to do with a woman's uterus or a fetus is regulated by very strict, conservative people. When I found out I was pregnant and had no insurance, this allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief. I may not be able to have insurance in this state, but my unborn fetus has more rights than a woman, and I felt confident that, as long as I was pregnant, my baby and I would be covered by the state.

I applied for TennCare coverage after having a professional pregnancy test done at a clinic in Nashville. The test is required before you can apply. Still pregnant! They advised me to go down the street, in-person, and apply for TennCare. I worked with a very kind woman who went through all of the paperwork with me and submitted everything on my behalf. She told me that I had immediate coverage, but not everyone would accept it right now. I would get a paper in the mail in a couple weeks with my insurance number, followed by an insurance card a couple weeks later.

No OB/Gyn would take my TennCare coverage without the plastic card, so I had to wait a little over a month, until it arrived by mail, but it's free coverage! I couldn't complain.

I found a doctor that I really liked on our plan. Options were very limited, but he was younger and seemed to be willing to put up with my many questions and vegan pregnancy agenda.

We had two ultrasounds and several check ups with everything fully covered. It was great! I didn’t have to stress about the expense of giving birth, which was a huge concern previously. Friends that had babies with insurance coverage warned me that having a baby in Tennessee was almost $10,000 out of pocket, and even more if you have a cesarian birth. As a small business owner without insurance, that number is closer to $30,000 just to cover the birth out of pocket, and that is just not a realistic expense for my husband and I right now.

At my last appointment, the doctor told me that in 4 weeks, I would be due for a gestational diabetes test. 2 weeks after that, I would need to get a shot because my blood type is negative and there’s a chance that if my baby does not share my blood type, my body will think that the baby is a pathogen and try to attack, and possibly kill the fetus. No sweat, though! It’s an easy fix with just one shot.

About a week later, I received a later in the mail, saying that my TennCare coverage had been terminated. Clearly, this was some kind of mistake. I was just at the doctor! And I had received no phone calls or prior letters indicating that this was even on the table. What was going on???

I called and the TennCare office informed me that my coverage had, indeed, been terminated. The woman said that I was sent a letter, requesting bank statements, and since they didn’t get a response from me, they just pulled the coverage. The thing is, I never received this supposed letter. Surely, a letter this important would have some kind of tracking number, require a signature, but no. There was no proof that this letter had ever been delivered, and I certainly did not receive it. So, instead of sending a second letter, or perhaps trying to call me, they simply cancelled all of the coverage for me and my unborn son.

I was told that I would be able to appeal this termination, but it would take 3 months to hear a response, and at this point, I was already almost 7 months pregnant! By the time I would hear back, I would have already had the baby, and the hospital bills! Not to mention, even if I wanted to be frugal and skip the highly recommended gestational diabetes test, I would still need that shot that kept my body from attacking my future son. I even called the doctor's office to ask how much a consult with the doctor would be. That's just talking with no ultrasound, shots, or anything. It would start at $300. I even reached out to the local women's clinics, but they don't offer any wellness exams after the initial pregnancy diagnosis.

I called TennCare after 2 weeks of hearing nothing back, trying to expedite the appeal process because I desperately needed my doctor, but even with a promise to hear something in 3-5 days, I heard nothing back. I waited another week, again calling to expedite, but the people I spoke with this time couldn’t guarantee anything, even after I explained that I had now missed my 28 week shot necessary for my son’s survival.

I tried to reason with the voice on the other end of the phone.

"I understand that my life is not considered important here, but for a state that cares so much about unborn fetuses, the actions here seem to show that you don’t actually care about babies at all! All I’m asking for is the medical aid to get my baby a shot so that he lives!"

"Ma’am, we can not make any guarantees.You will hear something in 3 months." That was the response from our government's healthcare.

This is what it is to be a pregnant woman in America without health coverage. It is scary. You will not be respected. There will not be answers. No one will care about you or the baby inside of you. I am now genuinely considering flying to Canada to give birth to my son. It would be cheaper than doing it in America, and our baby would have dual citizenship, which means that he would always have access to free healthcare.

After my 5th attempt calling Tenncare, now extremely overdue for my baby's shot, and having had no contact with my OB/Gyn for over 6 weeks, I get a new kind of response. I was now on the phone with the 3rd person of the day (I had to ask for a supervisor twice), and the person I spoke with actually had the same issue with her blood type and needing the shot for her baby.

The woman told me to hang up, call TennCare, and just start over completely. I would need to do a whole new application, but I would at least hear results before the appeal process would be complete. She let me know that, with the new application, emergency coverage would at least start immediately. As far as everything else goes, I would be back to square 1, and I am. Here I sit, 7 and a half months pregnant, still no shot for my son, no check up, no prescription refills, waiting on the little plastic TennCare card to arrive in the mail. I am hoping that my card arrives in the next couple weeks, and hoping even more, that my baby remains safe and healthy until I have the coverage to get the shot that he needs to survive.

I just want to say, fuck this state and its ability to pretend to give a shit about unborn babies if a woman needs an abortion, but can easily look the other way when a women is trying to give birth to one of the fetuses that they supposedly care so much about. Fuck the American healthcare system and its inability to care for it’s own citizens, especially the ones too small to fend for themselves. We are only as strong as the weakest among us. The way that I have been treated makes me sick for other women in this country who are in even worse situations. I have a voice. I have a blog, but most women in this situation don’t. There must be thousands of women out there going through the EXACT same thing who are feeling helpless and alone. We, as a nation, should hang our heads in shame.

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