PPO vs HDHP: Which Health Plan is Better for Pregnancy?

Getting pregnant can be an exciting time, but it also brings many practical considerations – including your health insurance coverage. Pregnancy care and childbirth costs can be expensive, so having sufficient coverage is crucial.

Two common insurance plan types many pregnant women consider are PPOs and HDHPs. But when it comes to pregnancy, which option is better – a PPO or HDHP?

Below we’ll compare these plan types head-to-head for expectant mothers and provide tips on choosing the right pregnancy health insurance.

Overview of PPO and HDHP Plans

First, let’s provide a quick overview of PPO and HDHP plans:

PPO Health Plans

  • PPO stands for “preferred provider organization.”

  • These plans offer in-network providers who offer discounted rates.

  • You pay less when using in-network providers, but can see out-of-network providers for higher costs.

  • Typically have higher monthly premiums but lower deductibles than HDHPs.

  • No requirement to have a primary care physician or get referrals to see specialists.

HDHPs (High Deductible Health Plans)

  • Feature much higher annual deductibles, often $1,400 or more per individual.

  • Deductible must be met before coverage kicks in (except for some preventive services).

  • Typically have lower monthly premiums than PPOs.

  • Can be paired with a health savings account (HSA) to save for medical expenses tax-free.

PPO vs. HDHP for Pregnancy – Key Considerations

When evaluating PPO vs. HDHP plans for pregnancy, there are a few key factors expectant mothers should consider:

Prenatal Care and Doctor Visits

PPO plans typically provide low or no cost prenatal visits and doctor appointments after paying a small copay. With an HDHP’s high deductible, you’ll pay out-of-pocket for these visits until meeting the deductible.

An exception is that HDHPs must cover certain preventive services like prenatal screening without the deductible. But other prenatal visits and delivery fees would require significant out-of-pocket costs with an HDHP.

Hospital and Delivery Costs

HDHPs also require you to pay the full negotiated rate for hospitals and delivery out-of-pocket until you meet your deductible. Hospital charges for delivery often exceed $10,000 alone.

PPO plans provide much more coverage for hospitals and delivery, requiring only copays and coinsurance without a deductible.

Prescription Medication

PPOs offer prescription drug coverage with copays right away. HDHPs may also cover certain prescriptions without the deductible, but others require out-of-pocket payment until the deductible is met.

Maximum Out-of-Pocket Limits

Both PPO and HDHP plans have annual limits on your total out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles, copays, and coinsurance. PPO maximums are usually around $5,000 or less, while HDHPs can exceed $6,000 or more.

So while HDHPs do cap your expenses, their limits are higher than PPOs. And you have to pay 100% until hitting your deductible.

Health Savings Account (HSA)

One advantage of HDHPs is that you can pair them with a health savings account (HSA). An HSA allows tax-free savings that can offset your deductible and other medical costs.

HSAs provide a way to pay those upfront HDHP expenses tax-free. But contributing enough to cover potential pregnancy costs requires significant savings.

Is a PPO or HDHP Better for Pregnancy?

Given the considerations above, a PPO plan is usually the better choice for expectant mothers compared to an HDHP. Here are some reasons why:

  • Prenatal visits and doctor appointments are covered at low cost – Just a small copay with a PPO compared to HDHP deductibles.

  • Hospitals and delivery are covered more extensively – PPOs provide coverage after copays and coinsurance, while HDHPs require you to pay the negotiated rates until the deductible.

  • Prescription drugs have lower costs – Copays allow affordable access to prenatal medications.

  • Maximum out-of-pocket caps are lower – PPO caps on your total costs keep expenses contained compared to higher HDHP limits.

  • No need to fund an HSA – An HDHP requires significant contributions to an HSA to offset the deductible and other costs.

Unless you can save a sizable amount in an HSA, a PPO offers more affordable pregnancy coverage overall in most cases. But there are scenarios where an HDHP could be the better choice.

When Might an HDHP Be Better for Pregnancy?

While PPO plans are preferable for pregnancy in most situations, here are some instances where a high deductible plan may be a good option:

  • You’ve maximized an HSA – If you’ve been contributing to and saving in an HSA for years, it may have enough funds to cover your out-of-pocket costs until the deductible.

  • You have low prenatal costs – If you expect minimal prenatal doctor visits and a delivery without complications, an HDHP may suffice.

  • You need premium savings – If affordability is a major concern, the lower HDHP monthly premiums provide savings.

  • You primarily want catastrophic coverage – Knowing the HDHP caps your costs may provide peace of mind even if you pay out-of-pocket until the deductible.

As you can see, there are scenarios where an HDHP could make financial sense for pregnancy. But they depend on your specific circumstances.

Ultimately, you have to evaluate your expected pregnancy costs and coverage needs to determine if an HDHP or PPO better fits your situation.

Tips for Choosing Pregnancy Health Insurance

If you’re trying to decide between PPO and HDHP plans for pregnancy coverage, keep these tips in mind:

  • Consider your total expected costs – Factor in prenatal visits, labs, ultrasounds, hospital charges, prescriptions, and other expenses to estimate your overall costs.

  • Understand how each plan works – Know the deductibles, copays, prescription benefits, out-of-pocket caps, and other details for both options.

  • Compare premiums – Weigh the monthly premium savings from an HDHP against the higher out-of-pocket costs you may incur.

  • Look at provider networks – Ensure both plans include your obstetricians, hospitals, specialists, and other preferred providers.

  • Review drug formularies – Make sure needed prescription medications are covered affordably on both plans.

  • Think about the future – Consider whether one option offers better long-term coverage for your family’s needs beyond just pregnancy.

Doing a side-by-side comparison and understanding how both plans’ benefits apply to your situation allows choosing the optimal coverage.

Alternatives to Traditional Insurance for Pregnancy

Beyond typical PPO and HDHP health plans, there are a few other options expectant mothers could consider:

Short-Term Insurance

Short-term health plans provide temporary coverage, often for 6-12 months. These may work as a bridge during pregnancy if you’re in between other policies.

But short-term plans may exclude maternity coverage entirely or impose waiting periods, so read the fine print carefully. They also don’t meet ACA standards for benefits and protections.

Catastrophic Insurance

Catastrophic or emergency care plans are essentially very high-deductible plans that provide minimal benefits until you meet a $7,500+ deductible.

While they offer low premiums, pregnancy costs would require major out-of-pocket costs until you reach the deductible. You also don’t get the benefit of an associated HSA account.


Medicaid provides free or low-cost health coverage based on income and family size. Pregnant women often qualify even if they would normally exceed eligibility thresholds when not pregnant.

If you qualify, Medicaid offers very affordable maternity, delivery, and newborn care. Availability and covered services vary by state.

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

CHIP is low-cost insurance for children up to age 19 for families who don’t qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford private insurance. Each state has its own eligibility rules.

In some states, CHIP covers pregnant mothers as well as children. It’s worth exploring if Medicaid eligibility thresholds are too stringent.

The Bottom Line

Choosing between a PPO and HDHP plan for pregnancy involves weighing monthly premium costs against deductibles and total out-of-pocket limits.

In most cases, the lower deductibles and copays

Pregnancy and health insurance plans – Medical Minute


Is a PPO or HDHP better for pregnancy?

Whether you are expecting a baby: If you or your spouse are pregnant, you may want to get a PPO. Your plan can cover the costs of the pregnancy and birth. If you are single or not planning on starting a family, you may want to stick with an HDHP.

What is the best insurance plan for a pregnant woman?

Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna and Kaiser Permanente offer the best health insurance plans for pregnant women. If you have coverage through your employer, your health insurance might be cheaper than buying a plan on your own. Medicaid and CHIP are good choices for low-income pregnant women.

Is HSA plan good for pregnancy?

In addition to labor and delivery, you can use HSA funds to cover the following pregnancy-related expenses: Infertility treatments. Ultrasounds. Childbirth classes.

Why would you choose PPO over HDHP?

PPO stands for preferred provider organization plan. This type of health insurance plan offers lower deductibles than HDHPs. That makes them a good fit if you visit the doctor frequently and don’t want to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket before your insurer will pay for care.

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