Had to Pay for Pregnancy Out of Pocket Skip to content
Friðjón (left), Aria, and Fernanda.
Photo: Friðjón (left), Aria, and Fernanda..

Had to Pay for Pregnancy Out of Pocket

A young couple in Iceland had to pay for their pregnancy and the birth of their first child out of pocket because the mother is foreign, RÚV reports. Little Aria was born in Iceland one month ago to an Icelandic father, making her an Icelandic citizen. Because her mother is foreign and her residency paperwork is still being processed, however, the pair had to pay for all the medical costs associated with the pregnancy and birth out of pocket. If the child’s mother were Icelandic and the father foreign, public health insurance would have covered the costs.

Months to process paperwork

Friðjón, an Icelandic citizen, and Fernanda, from Mexico, got married last July and moved to Iceland in August. “We would have come earlier, if we hadn’t had to spend three months getting all the papers we needed for a residence permit and to get married,” says Friðjón. “That took three months in Mexico.”

It will take Fernanda eight months to obtain a residence permit and therefore the right to access public health insurance. That will happen in March, some four months after Aria’s birth. As a result, the couple has had to pay for all of their doctor’s visits and medical costs associated with the pregnancy out of pocket.

Risky pregnancy

Friðjón says he has stopped keeping track of the total amount the two have spent. “We’ve maybe spend around [ISK] 900,000 [$7,600/€6,700]. But this wasn’t a smooth pregnancy or birth, it was categorised as a risky pregnancy.” The birth itself cost almost ISK 700,000 ($5,900/€5,200), but the couple has also had to pay for all doctor’s visits and other medical services associated with the pregnancy. “We visited the emergency room twice, for example, and the first time it cost around 65,000 and the second time 100,000,” Friðjón stated. “This has a direct impact on my family’s quality of life.”

Friðjón says the couple avoided accessing healthcare several times because of the prohibitive cost. “It was really hard to make a decision about – should I go now and get an invoice that will come down on the family as a whole, or should we wait and see if this gets better?”

Gender gap in coverage

If Fernanda were an Icelandic citizen and Friðjón foreign, most of the couple’s medical costs would have been covered by public health insurance. Friðjón says this is a flaw in the system that ignores the rights of the father and child. “The child certainly has no rights until after birth,” Friðjón says, adding that he considers maternity service is not only service for the mother, but also the child. “For me, this is a basic human right. This has to be changed.”

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