Scott and Allyson Wopata wanted to make a balanced decision.
When their fourth child was born at Northfield Hospital, Scott and Allyson needed important financial information to make a medical decision.
“We had a few really complicated insurance scenarios, and the financial team went above and beyond in responding in the moment,” Scott says.
Pregnant with Samuel, Allyson tested positive for group B strep, a common bacteria that can be passed to the baby during birth and cause serious infections including sepsis, meningitis and pneumonia. To prevent transmission, antibiotics are given early in labor to block the fast-growing bacteria. But Samuel was born so quickly, the antibiotics may not have had enough time to take effect; the Birth Center wanted to keep Samuel for 48 hours to watch for signs of infection.
That’s when non-medical complications set in: Insurance and billing.
Would insurance cover Samuel’s hospital care? Would it cover Allyson too, if she stayed as long as Samuel (but didn’t need medical care herself)?
“It became this really confusing moment,” with several details to consider, Scott says. “We had to make what could be a very expensive decision on the fly. We were worried, and couldn’t afford a bad decision. But I was making a really big decision with very limited information.”
Scott and Allyson needed help understanding their insurance coverage so they’d feel secure in making a decision. Scott asked for help at the Admissions desk. There, Bonnie Kurtt “sat down with me and my giant stack of insurance documents and she helped me frame the questions.” Then Bonnie connected Scott with Denise Thom in Patient Financial Services, who handles billing and typically doesn’t work directly with patients.
“For 15 minutes she walked through everything, and asked questions I hadn’t thought to ask,” Scott says. Denise then explained their insurance coverage so Scott and Allyson could make a decision: “I still had to make decisions, but now I had the information to do it.”
Allyson was able to stay, and “we just focused on Sam for the next 24 hours,” Scott says. “We had a clear path forward.” (Sam went home healthy, no sign of group B strep.)
“It’s really helpful when you have people who can calmly talk you through the options, so you don’t feel like it’s all riding on your shoulders,” Allyson says. “You don’t want to be overwhelmed with decisions when you’re in the thick of it.”
When Lily (now almost 10 years old) was born at 34 weeks, Allyson was helicoptered up to Abbott Northwestern to deliver; Lily stayed in neo-natal intensive care for one week. At the Birth Center in Northfield, “they were all calm, and took it one step at a time” prepping Allyson for transfer, she recalls. Scott adds, “They made it super simple.”
Having four babies at the Birth Center taught Allyson and Scott that every experience is different. Clara’s birth in 2012 and Levinia’s birth in 2015 were swift and simple, with excellent care from the Birth Center team. During Sam’s labor, “my nurse was really helpful in suggesting options – the bathtub, a birthing ball – until something appealed to me. She didn’t list a million things; she read my face and made one suggestion at a time until something seemed to stick.”
With each birth, “we felt supported in all our decisions,” Allyson adds. “You just feel cared-for, that everyone is doing a great job making you feel comfortable and secure.”
In the back office, too.