Free Health Care for a Pregnant Teenager

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Positive pregnancy test.
Positive pregnancy test. (Image: Paul Velgos/iStock/Getty Images)

Although about half of the pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, not all women, particularly teenagers who are facing an unplanned pregnancy, have health-insurance coverage to pay for their pregnancy-related medical expenses. Teens who are uninsured are less likely to receive prenatal care and are therefore at increased risk for suffering pregnancy complications. Fortunately, several free public health-care programs are available to help pregnant teens get the prenatal services they need.

Medicaid for Pregnant Women

Medicaid programs pay for about 40 percent of all childbirths in the United States. Women who qualify receive coverage for prenatal care, labor and delivery, and they receive postpartum care for 60 days. Since the Medicaid program is administered through the states, each state can choose whether to provide full Medicaid coverage to pregnant women or limit coverage to specific pregnancy-related services. Infants born to pregnant women who are receiving Medicaid on the date of delivery automatically qualify for Medicaid benefits of their own until they turn at least 1 year old.

Healthy Beginnings

Some states offer Healthy Beginnings -- a special medical assistance program for pregnant low-income women who do not have health insurance. Eligibility is based on income and household size. Coverage begins as soon as a doctor tells the young woman she is pregnant. Besides paying for the usual medical care during pregnancy, the program covers additional services, such as support from visiting nurses to at-risk mothers for the first year after their baby is born. A teen can contact her local county assistance office to apply.

Children’s Health Insurance Plans

In some states, the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, covers women, including teens, who are pregnant. Teens eligible for the program receive no-cost health coverage for prenatal care and labor and delivery services. Although a pregnant woman of any age can apply, income guidelines for CHIP prenatal care vary by state. Pregnant teens age 19 or younger who live on their own also can apply. A teen who qualifies for traditional Medicaid or has other health-insurance coverage will not qualify for CHIP.

State Pregnancy Medical Programs

Pregnant teens may qualify for free prenatal and delivery care through state pregnancy medical programs. These programs have income limits, as they are designed to help low-income women. The income limit depends on a teen's state of residence and the number of family members living in the household. A pregnant teen's unborn child counts as a family member for determining eligibility. Women who qualify for pregnancy medical benefits remain eligible throughout their pregnancies even if the family's income or the number of people living in the home changes.

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