High cost of giving birth straining public system

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It is almost a year since the Federal Government set limits on the amount women can claim for private prenatal care.

Obstetricians say the changes have pushed 25,000 women into giving birth at public hospitals and that is putting an extra burden on an already overloaded system.

The professional association representing obstetricians and gynaecologists claims 80 per cent of women who are pregnant or trying to have a baby are now struggling to afford specialist care.

In January the Government capped the amount women could claim for private obstetrics and IVF at between $400 and $500.

Dr Andrew Foote, an executive member of the National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (NASOG), says the changes have left women seeking specialist care thousands of dollars out of pocket.

... "The average out-of-pocket [expense] is about $2,000 and the rebate used to be 80 per cent and it has now plummeted."

... the costs have forced many people into the public system.

"... the trends so far indicate about a 10 per cent drift from private to public, which if you look at the numbers Australia-wide, it is an extra 25,000 births per year that are going to arrive in the public system," ...

Tamara Fuller ... opted to go to a private obstetrician because of difficulties conceiving.

"I've had three miscarriages now and I just felt that I needed the continuity of care of an obstetrician who knew my history," she said.

"Going private has certainly been difficult... sort of financially because you've got the outlay of the $1,850 pregnancy management payments.

"But then every time I go to the obstetrician, and it is about 10 visits throughout your whole pregnancy, it is basically $65 out of pocket."

... But the Health Minister says the changes to the rebate amount for obstetrics have been designed to support the long-term sustainability of the extended Medicare safety net.

In a statement to The World Today, Nicola Roxon says patients will only pay out-of-pocket obstetrics costs if their doctors are charging excessive fees.

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448