North county hospital offers new prenatal care program for uninsured mothers

At SSM Health DePaul Hospital's OB Care Center, prenatal care starts even before the patient's insurance is finalized.

Andrea Hampton was about to start a new job when she found out she was pregnant with her second child.

Her new insurance wouldn’t kick in for several more weeks, and she knew she needed to find a way to start prenatal care immediately.

“I think people think of pregnancy as a beginning and an end, and no middle,” she said. “Like, I got pregnant, I had a baby, but there’s a whole lot that goes on in between."

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Hampton found a solution at SSM Health DePaul Hospital in north St. Louis County. The hospital recently launched the OB Care Center, which allows uninsured or underinsured women to access prenatal care. While the doctors see patients, financial counselors help patients find insurance coverage, usually through Medicaid.

The treatment at this center starts even before insurance kicks in.

“I came in April. So I received care since April while still working to get my Medicaid for pregnant women,” Hampton said.

“Women want to have prenatal care,” said Dr. Carolyn Pryor, the Medical Director of Maternal Services for the St. Louis Region of SSM. “They want to take care of themselves and they want to take care of their babies because they want the best outcomes for their babies.”

Dr. Pryor started the OB Care Center at DePaul in 2016. She noticed a high number of patients who were unable to get care without insurance, and they would only see a doctor for the first time when delivering their babies. She said even community health centers, which might accept these patients, can sometimes be busy and moms struggled to get an appointment.

“The challenge is, sometimes they don’t know where to go or they don’t know how to get there. So that’s why we’re here,” Dr. Pryor said.

At the OB Care Center, treatment starts before insurance is finalized.

“Our goal is that, by the time mom delivers, then she and baby will be covered by a health insurance plan,” she added. “It basically gives us an opportunity to help that mom have the best pregnancy and the best outcome.”

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The OB Care Center collaborates with St. Louis University’s Department of Maternal Fetal Medicine for any high risk pregnancies.

Hampton’s pregnancy started out high risk, but now mom and baby are healthy. She is due to deliver in October, and is expecting a little girl.

“I have a plan, and I’m able to follow that plan to ensure that my baby’s healthy when she is born in the next six weeks, she said.

“I feel safe knowing that someone who knows what they are doing is taking care of me.”