Obamacare Doesn't Guarantee Coverage at Birthing Centers

Tuesday, 04 Mar 2014 02:48 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Obamacare requires individual and small group insurance plans to cover maternity care, but there are no guarantees that it will cover services provided by midwives and birthing centers.

A growing number of women in the United States are choosing to deliver their babies at birthing centers, typically staffed by midwives rather than doctors and using less medical intervention than hospitals, Kaiser Health News reported.

According to study released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2012, 53,635 births, or 1.36 percent of all births, took place outside the hospital, Kaiser said. Of the non-hospital figure, 29 percent, or 15,577 births, occurred at freestanding birthing centers.

A landmark study published by the Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health last year  showed that birth centers provide first-rate care to healthy pregnant women in the United States.

Birth centers are also reportedly less expensive than hospitals, with an average hospital charge of $10,166 in 2010 for a vaginal birth without complications compared to $2,277, according to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Still, while Medicaid must cover the services of licensed freestanding birth centers, coverage for both birthing centers and midwives, who work in various settings, they are not always included in the network of a private plan under the healthcare law.

Although maternity and newborn care is one of the 10 mandated health benefits, it does not require that specific types of providers be covered, Dania Palanker, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center, told Kaiser.

The Justice Department reportedly has said it is not providing any further guidance on how the provisions that prohibit insurers from discriminating against licensed medical providers will be handled.

"It leaves us in the dark," Jesse Bushman, director of advocacy and government affairs at the American College of Nurse-Midwives, told Kaiser.

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