Say Goodbye to Home Birth? A New Bill Pushes Too Far

Amie Newman

A bill in the Washington state Senate seeks to shut down the only association providing liability insurance to professional midwives, putting midwives in this state out of business and denying women one more option for safe childbirth.

It’s hard not to appeal directly to fiscal conservatives these days – the old school conservatives – the ones who appreciate how to save money long term without the neocon knee-jerk reaction to slash everything and anything in this time of economic difficulty. If this country wants to save money, it’s not enough to simply cut government funding for programs, brush off our hands, take a deep breath and say, "well, that’s that" and walk away.

So it is with a bill in the Washington state Senate (SB 5588) that seeks to shut down various State Boards and Commissions throughout the state in an effort to cut costs. Inexplicably, the bill has targeted the JUA (Joint Underwriting Association) for closure – despite the fact that the group does not even receive state funds. The bigger issue, however, is that this is the association that ensures liability coverage for certified professional midwives throughout the state. Without the JUA, midwives will not be able to obtain malpractice insurance and will effectively be put out of business in Washington state. 

But here’s the part to try out on your fiscally conservative pals (old-school, remember):

A recent Department of Health report revealed that in Washington state, professional midwifery services saves the state $250,000 a year – a number which increases to $1.3 million a year when you factor in private insurance.

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JUA is the only place where professional midwives in Washington state can obtain liability insurance so it’s critical to make sure JUA is not closed by this bill. 

Though it is likely you will read impassioned attacks on professional, certified midwifery in the comments section of this post (or any other on this site), the facts tell the real story. Certified, professional midwifery is safe for the mother, for the newborn baby, saves money for both the consumer and insurance companies, and results in better heath outcomes with significantly reduced rates of c-sections.  In addition, midwifery services for pregnant and birthing women offer another safe and (in some states) legal option for prenatal, childbirth and postnatal care. 

If you live in Washington state, here’s a copy of the letter you can send to your legislator whom you can find here:

Dear_______________________,
Senate Bill 5588 includes a list of State Boards and Commissions that will be shut down as part of cost-cutting efforts, and they’ve included the JUA in that list despite the fact that the JUA receives no state funding of any kind.

Without the JUA, licensed midwives and birth centers will not be able to get liability coverage. Without liability coverage, they will lose their credentialing with insurance companies. The effect will be to put most licensed midwives and birth centers out of business.

Please exempt the Joint Underwriting Association from SB 5588. Closing down the JUA would cost far more money than it saves, whilst also eliminating a much needed resource for women and their families. A recent Department of Health study found that licensed midwives save the state $250,000 per year, and (if you include private insurance too) that number climbs to $1.3 million per year. Clearly it makes no sense to eliminate licensed midwifery in the pursuit of saving money.

Thank you for your time and for your support of Washington State midwives and families.

Sincerely,____________________________

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