Jordan Paul had one of the best surprises of her life last summer, waiting throughout her pregnancy to find out the gender of her baby.
In June, she gave birth to a happy and healthy little girl named Brynlee.
But, next, came one of the worst surprises of her life: An unexpectedly high medical bill from Naples Community Hospital.
Paul did not deliver her baby at NCH, she went there after she was having trouble naturally delivering her afterbirth.
She did all of her prenatal care, labor and delivery with midwives at the Family Birth Center of Naples.
“When you come in (the family birth center) to labor and deliver you are paid,” Paul said. “You can walk out with your baby, you can enjoy that time, you don’t have to be on the phone with insurance like you would if you were to give birth in a hospital.”
Or that was the plan, at least.
After a healthy and relatively easy labor and delivery, midwife Dawn Meier said Paul’s placenta was not dropping. Out of an abundance of caution, they recommended that Paul go to the hospital.
“If we manually extract a placenta that could cause more bleeding where long-term care would be needed for the mother. We are not equipped to do long-term,” said Meier, who has owned and operated Family Birth Center of Naples for two decades.
Paul left her husband and new baby at the birthing center and then went by car to NCH, which is only a mile away.
She said, once there, she felt the doctor and nurse mocked her decision to have a baby at the birth center and mistreated her. To make matters worse, the bill was more money that it cost to actually deliver her baby.
Her itemized bill from NCH shows a $1900 charge for delivery and another $1500 charge for labor, even though she did not deliver the baby at NCH. In total, the removal of the placenta added up to $7,000 and Paul’s responsibility after insurance was more than $5,000.
“I’ve been appealing the bill to say I’m not paying this,” Paul said. “I’m not paying for the worst bedside manner I’ve ever heard of in this type of circumstance. I refuse to pay for that.”
The bill from NCH doubled the cost she anticipated to have the baby: Paul’s entire bill for months of prenatal appointments, labor and delivery at the birth center was around $5,000.
The transparent price structure was one of the reasons she chose to have her baby there.
It’s a trend that Meier and other midwives are seeing: Women coming to birth centers who want to know upfront what costs to expect.
“I see more women who (say) I just want to understand the breakdown of these costs, I’ve been calling around, and I can’t get a straight answer,” said Jennie Joseph, an Orlando based midwife and birth center owner.
Joseph said the stress of billing can be detrimental to pregnant women.
But birth centers are limited in their scope of practice. For instance, if a woman needed a C-section or another procedure that would warrant a stay in the hospital the birth center has to transfer the patient.
At Family Birth Center in Naples, Meirer says they transfer about 15% of women.
Paul said she would give birth at the birth center again given the chance she’d have to transfer to a hospital.
“I would rather have a complication and be transferred to the hospital than have to deal with that entire process at hospital,” Paul said.
NCH credited Paul $466 after she wrote them complaining about the treatment she received. A patient representative also wrote in a letter that her concerns about how the doctor treated her would be forwarded to medical staff leadership.
NCH declined a WINK News request to do an interview about Paul’s situation. Instead sent the following statement:
“NCH is, and always will be, patient-focused. We are committed to following standard hospital billing practices. Our financial services department assists patients with understanding their charges, as well as reviewing what their insurance coverage provides. Patients with balances due resulting from limited or no insurance coverage may be eligible for financial assistance programs and our financial counselors work closely with those who qualify.”
The marketing department also told WINK News a clinical team reviewed Paul’s circumstances and determined that the appropriate care was provided and that her financial obligations were appropriate.