Is it too expensive to have a baby with private healthcare? There are a number of factors to consider

16 January 2018

Media Release

The costs associated with having a baby with private healthcare have come into question following a recent study released by James Cook University analysing the changing costs of obstetric care in Australia. The study reports that obstetric services occupy the highest out-of-pocket charges per service, of all Medicare services, and that between 1992 and 2017, out-of-hospital obstetrics accounted for the largest average increase in out-of-pocket charges, with a rise of more than 1000%.

In an interview with ABC News, RANZCOG President Professor Steve Robson acknowledged that the out-of-pocket cost of having a child has increased, but also noted that there are a number of contributing factors that need to be considered, including soaring medical indemnity costs, limited medical rebate concessions and patient choice.

While the study recognised some of these factors, it failed to clearly outline what the out-of-pocket charges were and whether these are specific only to obstetric services.

During the antenatal and postnatal periods, the care provided to mother and baby may involve a number of healthcare specialists, including anaesthetists, surgeons, radiologists and others. When a woman has, or is at risk of having, a complicated birth her need for multidisciplinary care increases further. The best maternity care is collaborative and this care incurs a shared cost.

“It’s easy to forget that in the same way it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to deliver a baby. We say this all the time: collaborative care is key to ensuring best outcomes for women and their babies which is why it is one of the underlying principles in our Maternity Care Framework,” said Professor Robson.

The difference in cost between private obstetricians was also highlighted, with the study promoting a greater need for fee transparency. Professor Robson agreed that transparency was absolutely vital and that women should be able to find out the potential cost of their maternity care before they choose a medical provider.

“The College is proactive in encouraging its members to be open and clear around the costs involved when consulting with patients. Women should have access to all the information they need, including financial information, to make an informed choice. “
On average, the study suggests private out-of-pocket expenses sit close to $1000 for care delivered during pregnancy and birth. It also shows a drop in the uptake of private services as the cost of care increases, re-igniting the debate around private and public maternity care. Working in both the private and public sector, Professor Robson recognises that there are significant challenges of demand and capacity in the public sector that need addressing.

“When you take into consideration that birthing in a private hospital leads to fewer adverse outcomes, and that maternity care stretches across the course of the nine-month pregnancy, as well as before and after birth, private obstetricians are providing a much-needed service to ensure the health of the newest generations of Australians.“



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