Having a baby is one of the most exciting life stages, yet it may also be one of the most uncertain for expectant parents. Pregnancy can raise so many questions, not least about the health of mother and baby.
With around 97.5 percent of Australian women now opting to give birth in hospital, clearly one of the big decisions for parents is whether to go through the public or private health system to deliver your little one.
The public system
In Australia we’re looked after by a two-pronged health care system. The public sector, run by the government through Medicare and paid for by our taxes, and the private health care sector. According to one health provider, around 70 percent of babies born in hospital are delivered via the public system.
Just as in the private health system, expectant mothers treated in public hospitals will have regular scheduled antenatal checks with a midwife. Many public hospitals try to ensure continuity of care but you may find that a different midwife sees you at each visit. When it comes to giving birth in the public system your delivery will be managed by an experienced team, but there is a chance that you may not have had a chance to meet them prior to birth.
On the plus side, having your baby in a public hospital as a public patient won’t cost you anything, because your treatment is covered by Medicare.
The private system
Having your baby in the private health system means greater continuity of care, so you’ll be able to see the obstetrician of your choice. They will oversee your regular antenatal check-ups and manage the birth, which may be reassuring for many mums. You’ll also have the choice of which paediatrician conducts tests on your baby after birth and for any ongoing treatment required.
Those in the private system will be entitled to a private room, where available, unlike in the public system which hospitals tend to only offer shared ward facilities.
There are two ways to pay for private hospital treatment – either from your own pocket or via a health fund, which can help cover the costs. Health insurance may not cover the entire cost of antenatal and obstetrics in the private system, so the downside is that you may have to pay the difference – or out of pocket expenses. These costs can vary between hospitals and doctors, and will depend on your circumstances.
Most private health insurers require that you provide at least 12 months of membership before you’re entitled to claim on any birthing-related services. So you’ll need to ensure that your policy is up to scratch at least three months before you become pregnant. So if you and your partner are thinking about having a baby in the next couple of years, consider private health insurance with obstetrics and then compare policies online to ensure you’re signing up for appropriate cover at the best possible price.