Disclosure: Diary of a First Time Mom is partnering with UnitedHealthcare to educate parents about selecting health insurance plans this open enrollment season. Although some form of compensation has been received, all opinions remain my own.

Dear Diary,

When I became a mom, I slid several spaces down my priority list. I bypassed my favorite stores and bought kid couture at shopping malls. I stocked my kitchen cabinets with Cheerios, Goldfish and other finger foods. I scheduled pediatrician appointments, preschool tours and professional photo shoots. As I made the world go round for my child, my world outside of motherhood stood still. But now I’m finally taking time to take care of myself—well, at least when something comes up.

I must make sure I obtain quality, affordable health insurance. This is extremely important in the midst of cold and flu season. The falling temperature and rising germs are a recipe for exhausting myself, my sick days and my bank account. Currently, there’s a hospital collection agency on my answering machine demanding an outstanding debt.

So as I enter the New Year, I’m looking into how to stay healthy and how not to go into debt. Here’s what you should inquire about when finding a health insurance plan and how you can save money on health insurance.


You or members of your family may be eligible for help paying for a health insurance plan. New rules make it possible for many moms to qualify for a tax credit, also called a subsidy. Or you may qualify for a program like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Medicaid. When I first became a mom, I figured a college degree and a good job cancelled out any chance of receiving help. But CHIP offers a sliding scale. Families can make more than six figures and still qualify! For example, a four-person household with an annual income of $68,688 will have an average monthly premium of $71 per child, plus any co-pays for services.

2. Tax Credits

If you do not have health insurance through at work, you may be eligible for help paying for a plan offered in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Use a tax calculator, like the one on UnitedHealthcare’s website,  to see if you may qualify for a subsidy known as a tax credit. Government subsidies pay for a portion of the plan premiums, and can be taken as a credit against annual federal taxes, or as a credit against the monthly plan premium. The chart below illustrates the family income ranges that may qualify for a subsidy.

3. Costs

In addition to a Premium Tax Credit, there are other ways to save money on health care and reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

  • Check to see if your provider is in your plan’s network. I previously switched plans and lost my daughter’s pediatrician since birth. It was a headache transferring her records and even getting appointments at the new office. The reason why I have an outstanding bill is that I couldn’t get in to see the one doctor the insurance actually covered. To make matters worse, we didn’t have a report with the new doctor. Her assistance, a medical student, interrogated me about my daughter’s diet, told me she was overweight and later discovered that he misread the chart! One way insurance companies help control costs is by working with hospitals and doctors to negotiate lower-cost contracts and create plan networks. So if you enroll in a plan with a network, you may save money by visiting in-network providers.  Therefore, it’s important to check and see if your current providers are a part of the new plan.
  • Choose a health insurance plan that is compatible with a tax-advantaged health savings account (HSA). An HSA allows you to put away a limited amount of pre-tax dollars to pay for eligible current and future medical expenses. This comes in handy if I need to get my braces or eyeglasses.
  • Plan ahead for medical expenses. Log onto your plan’s website and use tools such as a treatment cost estimator to see what a medical procedure may cost. You also can talk with your doctor to learn more about the costs of treatment.
  • Know when to seek emergency care. It’s usually best to visit your primary care doctor or an urgent care center unless it is an emergency. A previous plan that covered my family charged an arm and a leg to ride in an ambulance or visit the ER.
  • Reduce prescription drug costs. Talk with your doctor about generic drugs and explore ways to save on your prescriptions. Mail-order options are generally less expensive than walk-in pharmacies.

Another way I save money is to move myself up the  priority list. I’m not at the top quite yet, but this year, I plan to schedule appointments in advance instead of waiting until something goes wrong. I am learning that in order to make the world go round for everyone else, I must make my world more balanced. I am resolving to eat healthier and exercise more often–which is more than I am doing at the moment! I also will manage my stress–may need to get tongue surgery from biting it a lot to avoid arguments!

Hey DFTM–Are you shopping for a health insurance plan? Click here to find out how to choose the right plan for your family. And click this to evaluate a plan to see if it’s something you can even afford. 

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

One Response

  1. Janeane Davis

    Health insurance is not a luxury, it is not a want item. It is a need item. We improve quality of life for ourselves and our children when we have adequate health insurance. It is important to get the best health insurance possible and to use it early and often – before things go bad.


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