Over the last year we’ve heard a lot of recurring themes in the health care reform debates: Things like eliminating pre-existing condition exclusions and denials by private health insurance carriers, and requiring carriers to do away with gender rating when setting premiums. We’ve also heard quite a bit about requiring that maternity care be included on all health insurance policies. In Colorado, all group plans cover maternity care, but it’s rare and expensive in the individual market. Most individual policies don’t offer maternity care at all, and the ones that do (Rocky Mountain Health Plans, United Healthcare, and Assurant) tend to charge a lot for the coverage and offer limited maternity benefits.
When our son was born, we opted for a homebirth with two registered midwives. We had to pay for their services ourselves, since we have an individual health insurance policy that doesn’t cover maternity (none of the individual carriers in Colorado that offer maternity coverage will pay for a homebirth – this is also the case with most group plans that cover maternity). We received fantastic prenatal care throughout my pregnancy and delivery, and the $3000 that we paid was well worth it. And since we don’t pay for maternity care on our health insurance policy, it made sense that we would pay for our midwives’ services ourselves. If complications had arisen, our health insurance policy would have kicked in, as all policies in Colorado – individual and group – cover complications of pregnancy.
New mothers and infants account for nearly a quarter of all patients discharged from hospitals, c-sections are the most commonly performed surgical procedure in the US, and maternity and newborn care amount to more hospital charges than any other type of care. If health care reform ends up mandating that maternity care be included on all individual health insurance policies, there is no doubt that it will lead to increased premiums.
If we decide to have another child, we will most definitely opt for another midwife-attended homebirth. We would expect to have to pay for it ourselves, but I would be extremely frustrated if we were also having to pay for maternity care on our individual health insurance policy at the same time. I hope that if maternity care becomes a requirement on individual health insurance policies, it will cover both OBs and midwives, wherever a woman chooses to give birth (hospital, birth center, or home).
Amy Romano has written an outstanding article comparing modern American maternity care with SUVs. Since maternity care takes up such a huge portion of our health care budget, this article is a worthwhile read for anyone concerned about the spiraling cost of health care. Hopefully the points that Amy makes will be taken into consideration when lawmakers decide what services should be covered by all health insurance policies.
I found Amy’s article in Grand Rounds, very creatively hosted at Florence dot com.