Background Despite strong evidence of benefits and increasing consumer demand for homebirth, Australia has failed to effectively upscale it. To promote the adoption and expansion of homebirth in the public health care system, policymakers require quantifiable results to evaluate its economic value. To date, there has been limited evaluation of the financial impact of birth settings for women at low risk of pregnancy complications. Objective This study aimed to examine the difference in inpatient costs around birth between offering homebirth in the public maternity system versus not offering public homebirth to selected women who meet low-risk pregnancy criteria. Methods We used a whole-of-population linked administrative dataset containing all women who gave birth in Queensland (one Australian State) between 01/07/2012 and 30/06/2018 where publicly funded homebirth is not currently offered. We created a static microsimulation model to compare the inpatient cost difference for mother and baby around birth based on the women who gave birth between 01/07/2017 and 30/06/2018 (n = 36,314). The model comprised of a base model – representing standard public hospital care, and a counterfactual model – representing a hypothetical scenario where 5 % of women who gave birth in public hospitals planned to give birth at home prior to the onset of labour (n = 1816). Costs were reported in 2021/22 AUD. Results In our hypothetical scenario, after considering the effect of assumptive place and mode of birth for these planned homebirths, the estimated State-level inpatient cost saving around birth (summed for mother and babies) per pregnancy were: AU$303.13 (to Queensland public hospitals) and AU$186.94 (to Queensland public hospital funders). This calculates to a total cost saving per annum of AU$11 million (to Queensland public hospitals) and AU$6.8 million (to Queensland public hospital funders). Conclusion A considerable amount of inpatient health care costs around birth could be saved if 5 % of women booked at their local public hospitals, planned to give birth at home through a public-funded homebirth program. This finding supports the establishment and expansion of the homebirth option in the public health care system.
Bibliographical noteThis is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND
- Cost saving
- Planned homebirth
- Models of care