The Cost of Having Babies in Australia

Research shows that babies born in private hospitals may require help with breathing or may be more likely to be admitted into special care in the neonatal period when compared to babies born in public hospitals. The results of the study also showed that mothers birthing in private facilities were twice as likely to require assisted vaginal deliveries, including the use of vacuum or forceps, when compared with mothers who birthed in public hospitals. And, babies who are born through assisted deliveries are more likely to need resuscitation and / or special care after birth. And of course, babies or mothers who need special care, also end up costing the system more money.

Experts have not been specific about why the data reveals these trends, other than to say that private hospitals are more likely to have more interventions. And, because assisted deliveries put babies at greater risk, it is a major health concern. The researchers believe it is due to differences in obstetric practice, between public and private sector doctors. The research supports other data that shows Australian women who have chosen to compare health insurance and then purchase an affordable policyare more likely to opt for caesarean section births and that they have higher incidences of forceps and vacuum deliveries. And, of course the counter-argument is that, if you are paying for something, you have every right to make use of it, don’t you?

At the same time the controversy over the so-called two-tier health system has reached a peak, with the critics claiming that basic health care is unaffordable for the poorer members of society. The really critical ones have blamed the government for syphoning funds out of the public kitty in order to get more people to take private cover out. They have also claimed that patients in the public system are generally given the option of a treatment that just does the job- for free-or something that does the job a bit better or faster- with a co-payment attached.

But, to take politics out of the matter, your health is your concern. No one, not even the government, can do as good a job of looking after it than you. And if you want to look after it properly, you need to take good care of yourself. Reports tell us that incidences of chronic diseases have increased, but chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity are all largely manageable and preventable through healthy lifestyle and regular exercise. If you can keep your body healthy most of the time, and make it your responsibility to do so, you only need to use your cover for the odd doctor’s visit or an emergency. You won’t use your insurance as often, and your co-payments, if any, will be more affordable.

The economics tell us the current health system is unsustainable. If healthy, expectant mothers were to birth their babies naturally, instead of opting for more expensive, elective C-sections when there is no medical reason, the cost of having babies would be drastically reduced, not to mention the supplementary costs of resuscitation and special care. Medical care should only be sought out when it is completely necessary; it should not be considered a luxury.

The statistics show that babies born naturally with minimal interventions have greater chances of uncomplicated births, without the need for excessive medical treatment. This alone would save the health system a significant amount of money. And, if the government wants to do something to break the associated stigma of having a two tiered system, then educating consumers about their choices, both financial and health-related, could go a long way in assisting them to achieve that.

Henry Samuelson

Watching the business world from within, writing about everything that needs our attention

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