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Cheapest health insurance for pregnancy and birth

Do you need health insurance to have a baby? We compare public versus private care, and reveal the best policies.

woman and newborn baby in hospital
Last updated: 07 June 2024
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Pregnancy and childbirth can be full of surprises. But you can have control over what type of care you receive during your pregnancy.

The decision about how and where you want to give birth, and if you want to go private or public, is very personal. We help you weigh up your options by looking at the pros, cons and costs of going public vs private. If you already know you want to go private, jump straight to our expert picks for the cheapest health insurance for pregnancy and birth.

Public vs private care for pregnancy and birth

In Australia, doctors in private and public hospitals alike provide high-quality care for pregnancy and birth. The main advantage of going private is that you can choose the obstetrician who cares for you during your pregnancy and attends the birth.

However, this may not be the best option for you if you prefer a 'natural birth'. The statistics are pretty clear on this: there are more natural births (non-instrumental vaginal births with or without pain relief) in public hospitals and more caesareans in private hospitals.

   Public hospital  Private hospital
 Vaginal birth  52%  36%
 Caesarean  36%  51%
 Vacuum suction  7%  9%
 Forceps  5%  4%

Source: AIHW: Labour and birth 2021

CHOICE tip: It's important to choose the right obstetrician for the type of care you want. Ask about their rate of interventions, particularly caesareans.

Public hospital vs private hospital

Giving birth in a public hospital as a public patient

Pros
  • Lower rate of interventions and higher rate of natural births.
  • Only very small, if any, out-of-pocket costs.
  • Usually better facilities if you have a high-risk pregnancy or a sick or premature baby.
  • Some hospitals have birth centres or midwife programs where you can get more personalised care with your own midwife. Book in early as these programs are very popular.
Cons
  • You often don't know the doctor and midwives attending your birth and may see a different doctor/midwife each time.
  • Food and facilities may not be as nice as in a private hospital.
  • You often have to share a room with other mothers and their babies.
  • You may be cared for by junior doctors, who will call in a specialist when needed.

Giving birth in a private hospital as a private patient

Pros 
  • Continuity of care with your own obstetrician and their midwives during your pregnancy. 
  • Food and facilities may be nicer than in a public hospital. 
  • Better chance of getting a private room and your partner may be able to stay with you. 
Cons 
  • Higher rate of interventions and lower rates of natural births. 
  • High out-of-pocket-costs. 
  • Your obstetrician may be on leave or may not make it in time for the birth. 
  • You usually won't know the midwives who attend your birth and provide postnatal care.  
  • If your baby or you need intensive care, you may need to be transferred to a public hospital. 
  • Doctors and anaesthetists are often not on-site so have to be called in. 

CHOICE tip: Some public hospitals may encourage you to use your private hospital cover as a public patient without any cost to you – while there is no difference in your medical care, you may have a better chance of getting a private room.

How much does it cost to give birth?

Public patient

If you go to a public hospital as a public patient, you'd normally be fully covered by Medicare. But out-of-pocket costs could arise for:

  • shared care with a GP who doesn't bulk bill
  • scans or pathology outside of hospital
  • childbirth classes.

 Private patient

Even if you have private health insurance, large and sometimes unexpected out-of-pocket costs can arise for private care. Health funds are not allowed to cover out-of-hospital care. Therefore, each time you visit your obstetrician, you may have out-of-pocket costs. 

The amount depends on if and how much they charge above the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) fee. The largest cost may be the pregnancy management fee – you'll pay out-of-pocket costs between $1000 and $4000, with the highest costs in NSW and the ACT. 

Out-of-pocket costs as a private patient with health insurance for birth usually range between $400 and $500, plus your excess for the hospital accommodation. 

Ways to cut down costs

  • Check with your health fund to find an obstetrician who uses the fund's gap scheme for the birth and would be able to attend to you in a hospital that has an agreement with your health fund.
  • Use shared care with a GP who bulk bills.
  • Ask your obstetrician to detail all costs beforehand.
  • Consider being a private patient in a public hospital. It's less likely that you'll have unexpected out-of-pocket costs for blood tests, X-rays, ultrasounds, and the anaesthetist and paediatrician.  
  • Check with your health insurer how soon you need to upgrade to family cover so that your baby is covered.
  • Once you're pregnant, check whether you've served the waiting period. If you give birth before the waiting period is up, consider going to a public hospital as a public patient. 

Cheapest policies with cover for pregnancy, birth and assisted reproduction

Exclusively for CHOICE members, we've listed the cheapest policies in each state that cover pregnancy, birth and assisted reproduction.

Things to keep in mind

  • Take out private health insurance well ahead of getting pregnant. There is a 12-month waiting period that applies to the date you're admitted to hospital for the birth. 
  • You won't be covered if you have a premature birth within the waiting period or even if you give birth only a few days before the end of the waiting period.
  • Initially, only the person giving birth needs pregnancy cover. Once you're pregnant, check with your health insurer how soon you need to upgrade to family cover so that your baby is covered.
  • Check with your obstetrician and the private hospital or fertility clinic whether they have a no gap agreement with your health insurer. If they only have an agreement with another insurer, you can switch before giving birth without serving a waiting period for pregnancy, birth and assisted reproduction. 

Cheapest policy by state

Below, we reveal the cheapest policies. Log in to unlock this members-only content, or join CHOICE to get instant access to all of our expert, independent reviews.

All premiums are for a single person with $750 excess (families and couples pay about double). These prices don't take into account the health insurance rebate. If you earn less than $97,000 (or $194,000 for couples, families and single parents), you may be eligible for a rebate of nearly 25%.

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Some funds have restricted membership for employees of specific industries or professions, such as the armed forces, teachers, union members or CommBank. Where available (and where cheap), we've included these as well. 

Australian Capital Territory / New South Wales
  • HCI, Advantage Silver Plus, $750 excess, $217 per month
  • Hunter Health, Pregnancy Hospital Silver Plus, $500 excess, $228 per month
  • Mildura Health Fund, Five Star Gold, $750 excess, $225 per month
Northern Territory
  • Queensland Country Health Fund, Better Hospital Silver Plus, $500 excess, $126 per month
  • Medibank, Gold Advanced, $750 excess, $151 per month
Restricted membership funds
  • Defence, Health Ultimate Hospital Gold, $500 excess, $132 per month
  • Navy Health, Premium Gold, $750 excess, $121 per month
  • Teachers Health, Top Hospital Gold, $500 excess, $125 per month
Queensland
  • Mildura Health Fund, Five Star Gold, $750 excess, $225 per month
  • Queensland Country Health Fund, Better Hospital Silver Plus, $500 excess, $244 per month
South Australia
  • HCI, Advantage Silver Plus, $750 excess, $227 per month
  • Hunter Health, Pregnancy Hospital Silver Plus, $500 excess, $237 per month
  • Mildura Health Fund, Five Star Gold, $750 excess, $225 per month
Restricted membership funds
  • CBHS, Comprehensive Hospital Gold, $500 excess, $223 per month
  • Teachers Health, Top Hospital Gold, $500 excess, $225 per month
Tasmania
  • HCI, Advantage Silver Plus, $750 excess, $217 per month
  • HCI, Gold, $750 excess, $224 per month
  • Mildura Health Fund, Five Star Gold, $750 excess, $225 per month
Restricted membership funds
  • Teachers Health, Top Hospital Gold, $500 excess, $227 per month
Victoria
  • HCI, Advantage Silver Plus, $750 excess, $237 per month
  • Hunter Health , Pregnancy Hospital Silver Plus, $500 excess, $237 per month
  • Mildura Health Fund, Five Star Gold, $750 excess , $225 per month
Western Australia
  • HCI, Advantage Silver Plus, $750 excess, $186 per month
  • HCI, Gold, $750 excess, $221 per month
  • Mildura Health Fund, Five Star Gold, $750 excess, $225 per month
Restricted membership funds
  • Union Health, Family Hospital Silver Plus, $750 excess, $194 per month
  • CBHS, Comprehensive Hospital Gold, $750 excess, $195 per month

What's the difference between Silver Plus and Gold policies?

We've listed Silver Plus and Gold policies above, but what does a Gold policy get you that a Silver Plus policy doesn't?

Gold policies are the top level of cover and cover all medically necessary procedures.

While all Silver Plus policies in our list cover pregnancy, birth and assisted reproduction, they may restrict or exclude a small number of procedures, such as cataracts, joint replacement, rehabilitation, psychiatric in-hospital care and palliative care.

So check the details of what's included to make sure you're on the best level of cover for your needs.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.