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Private midwife insurance ‘expensive and unfair’

The Federal Government’s professional indemnity (PI) insurance for privately practising midwives has come under fire for being too expensive and excluding women who want to have a homebirth.

Federal Opposition spokesman for the status of women Sharman Stone says the Federal Government-supported scheme, which comes into effect at the beginning of next month, fails to meet the needs of both midwives and mothers seeking homebirths.

“Practising midwives will have to pay a minimum of $5000 a year for professional indemnity insurance to cover their services in a hospital,” she said. “They cannot get insurance for home birthing from July 1.”

The Government announced last month that it had finalised an agreement with Medical Insurance Group Australia for the introduction of Commonwealth-supported PI insurance for midwives.

The scheme allows privately practising midwives to purchase their own insurance, with the premium for a full-time midwife expected to be about $7500 per year.

But Ms Stone says the fact midwives will have to pay a minimum of $5000 whether they assist five or 30 hospital births is unreasonable.

“Very few midwives would manage 30 patients a year, particularly in rural and regional Australia, and many of these patients want to have a homebirth,” she said. “Midwives will be forced to pass on the additional cost of insurance to their patients.”

While only 0.2% of women opt for a homebirth, Ms Stone says this is an “important decision” for women and one they have a right to.

“This government has left women who want a legitimate and lawful homebirth and their midwives having to make the difficult decision of exercising a free choice but without the support of insurance,” she said.

“This is unacceptable, and rural women in particular will be forced to consider very long journeys to a hospital when a homebirth could have been a great alternative.”

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