Increase in Chinese Maternity Tourists Draw Community’s Ire

After some pregnant Chinese women who tried to come to he U.S. to deliver their babies were turned back by customs in Seattle, Chinese-run maternity centers in New York have come under scrutiny by the community.

(Photo via World Journal)

A maternity center in Brooklyn. (Photo via World Journal)

Many people frown on the maternity centers, which they say take advantage of government-sponsored welfare by helping expecting foreign moms apply for Medicaid, which the centers then use to bill for the pre- and postnatal care they provide.

People are particularly upset because most Chinese maternity tourists are from elite families, and they now put the costs of their prenatal checkups and delivery on the tab of American taxpayers.

On the West Coast, the influx of Chinese maternity tourists is practically out of control. But due to recently tightened inspections on pregnant Chinese women there, many expecting moms are now landing on the East Coast.

Eligible pregnant women, even those without legal status, can apply for the so-called “white card,” the Medicaid plan that covers maternity medical costs for both the mom and the baby. This, in a way, has encouraged maternity centers to make big profits out of maternity tourists from China.

For example, many such centers in Flushing help their clients apply for the “white card” after charging them about $1,626 per person. Someone said resentfully: “Covering the costs of the maternity centers with taxpayer money will make life more difficult for those who really need it.”

But there are some maternity centers that tell their pregnant clients not to apply for the “white card” because “the application would be kept on their record and could affect a future immigration application.”

Someone who works for a maternity center in Queens said that many such maternity centers collaborate with brokerage agencies in China to recruit clients who want to come to the U.S. to deliver. These clients do so for two reasons. The first one is to get the baby U.S. citizenship so they can come back to the U.S. to study or apply for permanent residency for their parents when they grow up. And the second one is to bypass the One-Child Policy in China.

Under the policy, couples who themselves were not the only child in their family face a steep penalty if they want to have more than one baby in the country. The amount is enough to cover the cost of a maternity center in the U.S. 

The person said maternity centers that don’t advice their clients to apply for the “white card” normally charge them “the same amount of money that you would need to rent a local place to stay. So the clients basically are just paying for their own rent.” The clients of these centers are mainly women who have been pregnant for four months or so. Each of them is charged about $9,758, plus the medical costs for delivering the baby.

As for the business itself, the person said “it is no longer easy money.” The competition has prompted many maternity centers to try more aggressive marketing strategies. And a price war may also be looming. The increase of Chinese immigrants in New York also represents a challenge for the businesses because more and more pregnant women from China can now live with their family and friends rather than relying on maternity centers.

People working in the medical field said an increasing number of Chinese maternity tourists are willing to pay for the best services. But if the delivery is not conducted smoothly, the centers can face huge problems.

Selina Chan, the administrative director of the Asian Services Center at Beth Israel Medical Center said about six months ago, the hospital served a patient who was eight months pregnant and had come from Shanghai to deliver her third baby. As the owner of a whole floor in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, the patient believed maternity medical services in the U.S. are more trustworthy. “Her only requirement was that everything had to be the best.”

Yingyan Zheng, a gynecologist, said he has been seeing many more patients from China since last year. Some of these patients are referred by maternity centers, some pay out of their own pocket, and some live with family and friends here. Normally, they go back to China with their baby two months after the delivery.

Zheng sighed and said he understands these women want their babies to have U.S. citizenship. But some maternity centers cannot be completely relied on. If everything goes well, that’s fine. But if an unexpected emergency happens, the expecting moms, without family members around, could get hurt both physically and psychologically. To deliver a baby in the U.S. is not as easy as some people think.

Xueshun Chen, acting president of the Fukien Benevolent Association of America, said few pregnant women in Fuzhou would come here on a tourist visa to have their baby delivered because for them, getting a visa is not as accessible as for people living in bigger cities like Shanghai. Even if they come here, they wouldn’t spend money on maternity centers. “All pregnant women who come here [from Fuzhou] have families here. They’d just live with their families.”

One Comment

  1. Dr. Etuka Obinwa says:

    America is securing and tightening its immigration laws.

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