Fathers and Birth Expenses: Should Dads Pay?

Father with his young baby cuddling and kissing him on cheek. Parenthood, love.

Would you support a law that required employed fathers making more than $42,000 per year to reimburse the government if a government program (Medicaid) has paid for the birth expenses of their child?

There is a disconnect between the relatively high number of births paid for by Medicaid in Wyoming (36% of all births in Wyoming in 2015) and Wyoming’s relatively low unemployment rate (4.2% in 2015).

Wyoming median household income in 2015 was $58,840.  The Federal Poverty Level (“FPL”) eligibility cutoff for a pregnant woman in Wyoming to receive Medicaid benefits is 154% of FPL, which for a household size of three (3) is $32,472 in gross income per year, far below the median household income.

For a household of three, income of $42,000 per year would be about 200% of the federal poverty level.

Data suggests fathers aren’t paying…

Because pregnant women only receive Medicaid coverage if they are income eligible, the unemployment rate and median income data would suggest that there are many employed expecting  fathers whose incomes are above 154% of FPL who are not paying to defray any of the expenses of the birth of their children.

According to the 2016 Wyoming Medicaid Annual Report, there were 5,517 pregnant women who were recipients of Wyoming Medicaid benefits in fiscal year 2016.

Total Medicaid expenditures for these recipients were $24,192,832, representing approximately $4,385 per recipient.

While Medicaid & government are….

Public policy should encourage pregnant women to seek adequate prenatal care.  Routine prenatal care, however, is usually the least expensive portion of the total costs of prenatal care and birthing expenses.

The proposed bill would not seek to recoup from fathers Medicaid payments for prenatal care that are not birthing expenses.

If we assume that about half of the fathers of the Medicaid eligible pregnant women are above median income, and that Medicaid birthing expenses average $3,288 per recipient (75% of the average recipient cost for prenatal care and birth), then the State is paying approximately nine million dollars ($9,000,000) each year to subsidize the birth expenses of the children of above median income fathers.

Making policy make sense

It does not make sense, however, for the State to saddle a poor father with birthing expenses if that would merely result in less child support being paid to the mother.  A means test for fathers is therefore appropriate.

A bright single line means test might encourage fathers to game the system by pretending to have less income than they do, so a graduated means test based upon a percentage of FPL, which reduces the incentive to provide false information, might make more sense.

© 2017 Clark Stith

Clark Stith Attorney is a debt relief agency. He helps people file for bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy Code.

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