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Getting Insurance to Pay for Midwives

It’s expensive to have a baby. We’re not talking about the eighteen plus years of care or the college tuition, but just the hospital fees when the baby is born. Over eighty-five percent of American babies are born in hospitals. Just the opposite takes place in Europe: the majority of babies are born in clinics, the births attended by midwives. This is just as safe and incurs only a fraction of the cost. A midwife’s services are usually less expensive because they call much less frequently for cesarean deliveries, and also order fewer tests.

A recent New York Times article, “American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World,” features interviews with many American women who have been frustrated in their attempts to use the services of a midwife. One mother in New York said that childbirth at a birthing center was not covered by her “comprehensive medical insurance.” Do insurance companies need to review their definition of the word “comprehensive?” The vice president of trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans puts this responsibility on the consumer, saying “if this is a feature that is important to you, you have to ask before you enroll.”

The good news is that thirty-three states require insurers to cover nurse-midwife services.  While it sounds good on paper, in practice it’s not so easy. Matters are often complicated by the fact that independent birthing clinics might not exist in the area and in their absence, local hospitals may not grant treatment privileges to midwives. Even if midwives are allowed to practice at a hospital, families will usually end up paying the same price as a physician visit.

All this may be changing though, as the Affordable Care Act added birth centers and midwife care as mandatory Medicaid services. More and more women demanding midwife care has led to a reevaluation of standard hospital birthing practices and health experts are now recommending an expanded use of birthing centers.

Read the entire article here: Getting Insurance to Pay for Midwives