Almost 750,000 U.S. women between ages 15 and 19 become pregnant each year, according to the Guttmacher Institute. While some will take the reins and raise their children, many will lean heavily on their own parents.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2.5 million grandparents were responsible for most of the basic needs of one or more grandchildren living with them in 2007. If you are about to become one of these grandparents, the extra expense of paying for food, shelter and clothing for your grandchildren can be difficult. Making sure they have health insurance can be complex as well.
Start researching your insurance options as soon as you become aware of your teen's pregnancy. It may be possible to add your grandchild to your employer's group health insurance policy. In New York, for instance, grandparents can add grandchildren to their plans if their grandchildren are chiefly dependent on them for support and their policies are issued in the state, according to the New York State Insurance Department.
If your current health insurance provider will not cover your grandchild, apply for Medicaid. Medicaid is available in every state and provides health care coverage to children under age 6. It is intended for families with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($29,725 for a family of four in 2011), but children still are eligible in some states if their family income is higher, according to InsureKidsNow.gov.
With Medicaid, your grandchild can receive preventive care, immunizations, screenings, treatment, doctor's and hospital visits, vision care and dental care, often at no cost. And because your teenager will likely not have a high-paying job, chances are your grandchild will qualify.
The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides coverage for children up to 19 years old and is available in every state. CHIP coverage is an option for families with incomes of up to $44,100 a year, but families with higher incomes qualify in some states, according to InsureKidsNow.gov. CHIP benefits vary by state, but routine checkups, immunizations, hospital care, dental care, and lab and X-ray services are covered in all states.
Some grandparents raising grandchildren might need only temporary support to get their affairs in order, which is an option in some areas. For instance, the Denver Human Services Grandparent and Kinship Program provides financial assistance, Medicaid and transportation assistance through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. Through TANF, you can request cash assistance on a monthly basis to use for your grandchild.
The price tag of teenage pregnancy
Don't wait to figure out how your grandchild will get health insurance; do your research right away. If your current insurance plan covers your teen, find out whether it will pay for her prenatal care and delivery. The cost of delivering a baby is estimated to be between $6,000 and $8,000 for low-risk pregnancies, and increases for high-risk pregnancies, according to the American Pregnancy Association. If you find out you're financially responsible for the delivery of your grandbaby, consider looking into a birthing center as an alternative to a hospital. Delivery and prenatal care at a birthing center cost about $3,000 to $4,000, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
According to FamiliesUSA, there were about 8.6 million uninsured children
in the United States between 2005 and 2007. Teen parents who are unable to support their children are fortunate if they have grandparents who are willing to lend a hand. Grandparents who obtain health care coverage for their grandchildren can provide them with healthier futures.