Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Health bill gives women choices

Hidden in the thousands of pages of the health care bill that President Barack Obama signed into law were some items very few people were aware of that will affect women all across the country.

They target issues concerning maternity care and they have the power to change our beliefs about where, how and with whom women should be giving birth in our country.

Did you know 42 percent of all births in the United States are paid for through Medicaid reimbursement? Now women will have a choice of how they use that money. They can continue to choose to birth in a hospital with a doctor, but they can also choose to have a certified nurse midwife attend them in a hospital or they could attend them at an out of hospital birth center.

Another option is to have a certified professional midwife attend them at an out-of-hospital birth center.

This doesn’t just represent more freedom for women to choose the birth the want, it also represents a huge cost savings to the Medicaid budget. The average hospital birth with a doctor attending costs approximately $20,000. It skyrockets to $60,000 for a Caesarean section birth. With our national Caesarean section rate climbing every day, this is a serious chunk of change.

On the other hand, the average cost for a birth center birth is approximately a quarter of that, or $5,000. Not all women should be birthing in birth centers with midwives, but if just 5 percent of women choose this option, it will mean millions of dollars a year saved.

Did you know that until the new health care bill was signed, there was no widespread standardized assessment of the maternity care being offered in this country? Statistics relating to the benefits and risks of current practices in use today, such as induction of labor, medication to speed labor or drugs for pain relief were not being kept in a national database.

Over time, this database will yield important information for women and their care providers by helping them base their care on informed choices.

Did you know women were being denied health care coverage because they had given birth by Caesarean section? This was being labeled a pre-existing condition that ruled them out of further care.

On top of that, the current stance of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists about vaginal birth after Caesarean section makes it impossible for many women in the United States to do anything except have a repeat Caesarean section for all future births. Until the new health care bill was signed, women were faced with the choice of letting their insurance company limit the size of their family or pay about $60,000 per child.

Did you know until the new health care bill was signed that your insurance company could deny you care simply because you were pregnant? Stopping this practice has the potential of affecting millions of women and babies. Guaranteeing access to quality maternity care affects not just this generation but the next as well.

Jennifer Stover is the president of the Birth and Baby Resource Network.