MONTPELIER, Vt. – The Vermont Legislature is considering a bill that would require health insurance companies to pay for midwife services, such as prenatal care, deliveries and care after birth.

Supporters say the midwife insurance mandate fits in with the goals of the state’s pending health care reform bill, which is intended to help make Vermont’s health care system more efficient and ensure everyone has access to essential medical care.

But skeptics say it would be another mandate on insurers when lawmakers are working to implement major health care reform.

A bill to expand private health insurance coverage for midwives has passed the Senate and is being considered by the House.

Currently, the state’s health insurance program for low-income Vermonters covers home births attended by licensed midwives. But Vermonters with private insurance must pay the full cost of home births.

The Department of Health reported there were 128 home births in 2010 out of 5,775 deliveries in Vermont.

Putney midwife Mary Lawlor said her fee for prenatal and post-birth visits, plus delivery, is $3,500.

The Burlington Free Press said the 2009 price for an uncomplicated delivery at Fletcher Allen Health Care was $6,803, not including prenatal care or physician charges.

During a hearing Thursday, Leigh Tofferi of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont told the House Health Care Committee that home births were less expensive than hospital births.

“I don’t think there would be significant change,” Tofferi said.

Susan Gretkowski, a lobbyist for MVP Health Care, said providing coverage could encourage more women to choose home births with midwives. “If there is a bad outcome, there is a high liability there,” she said.