A move by insurers to offer fixed-priced maternity policies might seem attractive but top doctors warn it will see decisions made by conglomerates.
A move by insurers to offer fixed-priced maternity policies might seem attractive but top doctors warn it will see decisions made by conglomerates.

New maternity insurance ‘takes away mother’s rights’

DOCTORS warn the emergence of fixed-priced maternity insurance policies will result in the mum losing control of her choice of doctor and birthing hospital and clauses will define the limits of care she receives - decisions will be made by conglomerates in a carbon copy of the US system.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Dilip Dhupelia said that while it may sound ideal to have a baby in the private system without the costs, it is a deliberate move by big insurers towards an American-style model of managed health care where the patient pays a capped fee and the insurer decides the most affordable care.

He warns pregnant women to read the fine print.

"These policies guarantee no out-of-pocket costs for the pregnancy or childbirth which sounds great. But many women don't realise that the insurance company decides which doctor treats them, where they will have their ultrasounds and in which hospital they will deliver their baby," he said.

The National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has also highlighted their members concern over these policies which have been established by or in partnership with private health insurers.

"It's no news to NASOG members that private obstetric practice has been under pressure for some time," NASOG president Gino Pecoraro said.

"Rising private health insurance premiums has seen many patients opt out of cover altogether.

"Coupled with the mandatory waiting periods before women can access private obstetric cover - despite over 50 per cent of all spontaneous pregnancies in Australia being unplanned- there are less and less expectant mothers going outside the "free" public hospital system.

"This puts enormous pressure on a public system.

"The only factor preventing women accessing this model of care is the underfunding of women's health due to long term inadequate rebates from both Medicare and private health insurance funds.

"This underinvestment making private obstetric care unaffordable for many women and families. Australia needs both public and private obstetric sectors to survive and thrive."

Mum Laura Brown, 33, of Geebung, with her daughter Willow, 2 months. Picture: Liam Kidston
Mum Laura Brown, 33, of Geebung, with her daughter Willow, 2 months. Picture: Liam Kidston

Dr Pecoraro said that at least in the short term, the appeal of the fixed price model is clear.

Private obstetricians are assured of patients and women receive certainty around their care.

But ultimately, there is a third party at play.

Contracts will define where a specialist's role starts and ends in relation to their remuneration," he said.

Mum of two Laura Brown said she is very wary of any system that takes away a mother's control when she is having a baby.

"It wouldn't be for me I wanted to be the decision maker in my pregnancies," the Geebung mum said.

Originally published as New maternity insurance 'takes away mother's rights'


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