Maternity services reform factsheet

The Australian Government has committed $120.5 million over four years to reform maternity services – improving choice and access for pregnant women, new mothers and families.

Page last updated: 26 May 2012

PDF printable version of the Maternity services reform factsheet (PDF 405 KB)

If you have any difficulty in accessing the PDF, please contact pacdweb@health.gov.au for an alternate version to be sent to you.

Of this, $66 million will fund changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) to make maternity care more affordable.

The reforms also recognise the important role played by midwives in the birthing experience of many Australian women. Women can be confident they can receive safe, high quality services and continuity of care from qualified and appropriately insured midwives, should they choose to.

The reforms respond to the growing pressure on the nation’s maternity services due to the rising number of births and workforce shortages – by making better use of the midwifery workforce, while maintaining current high standards of safety and quality.

These reforms are the result of comprehensive consultations by the Australian Government with stakeholders, health professionals, including midwives and obstetricians, and individual women. The reforms:

    • Support continuity of care – with health care providers, including midwives and obstetricians, working together to provide safe, high quality care throughout pregnancy, birth and after their baby is born.
    • Give women more choice in the type of care they wish to receive when having a baby.
    • Recognise the role of midwives in the birthing experience.
    • Enable women to claim rebates for specific midwifery services under the MBS.
    • Give women access to subsidised medicines by enabling midwives to prescribe certain medicines that are listed on the PBS.
    • Provide Australian Government-supported professional indemnity insurance for midwives so that women and their families, and midwives are protected.
    • Supports women and families living in rural and remote areas – through training and upskilling more midwives and GPs delivering maternity services.
    • Provides a new, expanded national 24 hour Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline. Women, their partners and families can call 1800 882 436 for advice and information about pregnancy, birth and the first 12 months of a baby’s life.

Accessing more affordable maternity care

The Government is making changes to the MBS and PBS so that maternity care options are more affordable. From 1 November 2010, eligible midwives in Australia will be able to access both the MBS and PBS.

For the first time:
  • women can claim rebates for specific services provided by an eligible privately practising midwife – antenatal and postnatal services (up to six weeks following the birth), and during birth in a hospital setting or birth centre; and
  • women can access certain subsidised medicines as prescribed by an authorised midwife.

Services covered

Under the new arrangements, services covered by Medicare are:
  • antenatal services;
  • delivery in a hospital setting – including a birth centre; and
  • postnatal services.

New midwife arrangements

Under the package of reforms, eligible midwives must be appropriately trained and qualified, and registered under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme or with a state or territory registration board.

To access the MBS, midwives must be privately practising – i.e. state salaried midwives employed in the public hospital system will not be eligible to provide Medicare rebateable services to public patients.

Eligible midwives must apply for a Medicare provider number and/or a PBS prescriber number. This enables women to claim care under Medicare and receive subsidised medicines, if prescribed.

Midwives will need to take out professional indemnity insurance, and the Australian Government is supporting an insurance product as part of this package. This insurance does not cover the planned delivery of babies in the home.

To provide Medicare rebateable services, midwives must have a collaborative arrangement with an obstetrician or a medical practitioner who provides obstetric services (i.e. GP obstetrician).

Collaborative arrangements must provide for consultation, referral or transfer to an obstetrician or a medical practitioner who provides obstetric services, as clinically relevant to ensure safe, high quality maternity care.

To provide care during the birth of a baby, privately practising midwives will need to have visitation rights agreed with the hospital.

For more information, visit Maternity Services Reform - www.health.gov.au/maternity

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