HEALTH: Insurance doesn't cover many home births

BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. - What some mothers call a beautiful experience can quickly turn ugly.

Many women who are choosing to have their babies at home say their insurance won't cover the costs.

"Frustrating, stressful, and sort of disappointing," said Bonner Springs mom Jenna Wiggins of her insurance experience.

A recent study published in the journal Birth, showed two-thirds of the nation's home births are paid for out of pocket compared to less than 5 percent of births in hospitals.

"Some insurance companies have pretty strict rules about what they'll pay for and what they won't pay for. And many of them will exclude home birth as an option," said midwife Lisa Cohen, who delivered Wiggins' baby.

Most home births involve midwives, who often charge thousands. 

"It's really hard for me to say to them, 'Gosh I'm sorry, but your insurance won't pay for anything,'" said Cohen.

Wiggins says she asked her insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield, for a list of home midwives they would cover.

"The midwives they sent me were all hospital staffed midwives so they work at a hospital as opposed to providing home birth services," said Wiggins.

Ultimately, Wiggins says her insurance paid nothing, leaving her with a $3,800 bill.

Blue Cross Blue Shield wouldn't comment on Wiggins' case, but did tell 41 Action News in a statement, "The healthcare coverage we offer our policyholders meets or exceeds medical policies recognized and approved by national and state health officials."

So why won't some insurance companies pay?

The Kansas Insurance Department said, "Insurance companies really only pay for health services which are rendered in a licensed health facility by a licensed provider."

Perhaps a statement on the website of insurance provider Aetna sums it up best: "Aetna considers planned deliveries at home and associated services not medically appropriate."

But certified nurse midwives like Cohen claim they're appropriate -- and very safe.

"Home birth is perfectly safe. As long as you have a skilled and educated provider," said Cohen.

The Kansas Insurance Department says parents considering a home birth should contact their insurance company long before the birth to discuss what they will and will not cover.

With home births growing in popularity in recent years -- up 29 percent between 2004 and 2009, according to the CDC -- Wiggins is hopeful more insurance companies will soon cover them.  

Either way, she still believes there's no place like home.

"Once you have a baby at home, you can't imagine having one in a hospital," said Wiggins.

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Justin Wilfon can be reached at justin.wilfon@kshb.com.

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