One of the many requirements listed to be eligible as a surrogate is “financial stability” but this can mean different things for different people. Some define it as being able to pay all of your bills. Others define it as having enough for bills and extra, while others still say that you should have a cushion in a savings account.
Despite how you define it, if you rely on government assistance, in any form, you are not financially stable. Which in turn, means this is not the right time for you to become a surrogate. You may be wondering why you can’t be a surrogate on government assistance. Here’s a look:
For the cash assistance and food stamp programs, regulations require that any money the household receives is reported for the purpose of determining income, which is needed to determine eligibility to the requested program.
This can include:
- wages from a job (including cash under the table),
- disability (Social Security or state),
- Veterans Benefits
- money from recycling or panhandling
*this includes both legal and illegal sources.
In the state of California, for medical purposes, only taxable income is countable. In this instance, surrogacy compensation would not be counted unless the surrogate receives a 1099 or chooses to claim this income on their taxes.
For cash aid (called CalWORKS in CA) and food stamps (called CalFresh in CA), this would count, in whole, each month received.
Food stamp and cash aid eligibility are based on the Federal Poverty Level, aka FPL, and these programs look at percentages of the FPL. This is why it is questionable when someone says that they are financially stable even though they receive these benefits.
If someone relies on these benefits to feed their family because they don’t have enough income to cover all of their other bases, are they going to be able to front money during their journey and wait for reimbursement?
As of 2017, the California FPL (100%) for a household of 4 is $24,600 annually or $2050 monthly.
133% FPL for that same household is $32,718 or $2726.50 monthly.
150% FPL is $36900 annually or $3075 monthly
200% FPL is $42,900 annually or $4100 monthly
These figures are gross income, before any taxes or deductions are taken out. This is to make things standard across the board and the most fair, as not everyone has the same deductions as the next person.
The Medicaid program is also an income based program that uses the Federal Poverty Level for eligibility determination though looks at higher percentages than the cash and food programs.
While the income is higher for this program, income qualifying for Medicaid still means that one is not financially stable.
There are marketplaces that were created as part of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 which allow you to review and purchase an insurance plan. Depending on your income, you may qualify for Advanced Premium Tax Credits, APTC, which can reduce your out of pocket costs.
This is a tax credit but is still considered assistance as it is, again, an income based program.
One is only eligible to a marketplace plan with APTC if their employer sponsored insurance is deemed unaffordable. This is determined based on the employee’s income and the employer insurance cost- if the employer sponsored insurance would cost less than 9% of the employee’s gross income*, it is deemed affordable and one would not be eligible to a marketplace plan with APTC. If the employer sponsored insurance would cost 10% or more of the employee’s gross income, it is deemed not an affordable plan and that employee would be able to review marketplace options.
*This percentage is for the employee only, not the employee plus spouse plus dependents.
The use of Medicaid by a surrogate for her surrogate pregnancy is not legal, not to mention highly unethical. If one is reliant on Medicaid for herself or her family medical needs, the time is not right to become a surrogate.
A surrogate who is dependent on these programs to live her day-to-day also puts the parentage in jeopardy.
In many states where a PBO is issued, a judge must sign off on that. The judge may refuse to sign off on a parentage order when the surrogate was on some form of assistance as it can be looked at as the surrogate being under financial duress or that the IPs were exploiting the surrogate.
This situation can also be looked at as a power differential as the IPs have money that the surrogate doesn’t. This can also invalidate the surrogacy agreement/contract depending on the state, which places the baby in jeopardy and custody of that child in question. What this means is the IPs may not be legally named the parents of their own child.
For the surrogate, receiving surrogacy compensation can lead to aid/assistance being stopped for not only herself but her entire family. Depending on the type of aid, if the surrogate did not report the surrogacy compensation, the household may be required to pay back the benefits in full and could be found to have committed fraud which can bring with it jail time.
Surrogacy is about minimizing risks and financial insecurity is a big risk. Intended Parents pay tens of thousands of dollars to have a child; a surrogate who could jeopardize their parentage and cost them more money should not be an option. Surrogacy is not about the surrogate but about the parents and their future baby.
Note: If you do find an agency that accepts you (as a surrogate) being on government assistance, please know the above risks, know that your agency is not ethical, and is also breaking the law.
About the Author: Latasha is a wife and mom to an 8 year old boy as well as a gestational carrier x1. She delivered 12/2015 and has been pumping ever since! Latasha plans to do another surrogacy in the future and has been involved in the surrogacy community for 7 years. She also works as an Eligibility Specialist, managing cases for government assistance for 7.5 years.