An Update on Home Birth and Midwife Legislation

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin recently signed into law legislation requiring health care insurance policies to cover midwifery services and home births. Supporters of the law said this law is critical in improving access to comprehensive health services for women, reducing system costs and strengthening the quality of care that mothers receive during pregnancy and childbirth.

“Access to midwifery care and home birth should not be limited only to those who can afford those services out of pocket,” Gov. Shumlin said. “This law will ensure that all expectant mothers get the coverage and care they want and deserve.”  The Governor also noted that the change will help hold down health care expenses.  Advocates, including the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said that because pregnancy is not an illness and 84 percent of births are low-risk, there is no reason to restrict coverage to hospitalization for low-risk labor and delivery.

Midwifery services for home births are currently covered by Medicaid and the Vermont Health Access Plan. New Hampshire and New York also have similar laws on the books.  In some states, the main objector to midwifery and home births is often the state medical society.  While safety is certainly a primary concern, home births using a midwife are generally less expensive and avoid large hospital costs, questioning the real rationale for fighting home births in low risk women. Any thoughts?