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Fika Midwifery sues Independent Health for home birth coverage

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Posted at 4:34 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 17:52:16-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — This is really an issue about choice and access to health care,” explained Fika Midwifery owner, Maura Winkler.

Winkler is suing Independent Health for defamation, interfering with her business, violation of numerous state laws, and conspiracy, after she said the insurance company stopped providing coverage for home births for her clients.

“I think Independent Health and hospitals don’t support a person’s choice to give birth wherever they would like to give birth.”

According to the 20 page complaint filed in State Supreme Court, Independent Health did provide home birth coverage for more than two years. But, it stopped in mid-2019 when Winkler no longer had a written collaborative agreement with a physician. That agreement is not required by state law. However, it's unclear why Winkler choose to no longer have that ind of agreement in place.

Once more, the complaint alleges Independent Health retracted patient payments and denied newborn care at Fika but allowed newborn care coverage under other midwives. The suit also accuses Independent Health of encouraging patients to go elsewhere for healthcare services, and discouraging physicians from collaborating with Winkler’s midwifery.

Independent Health declined to go on camera. But, in a statement, a spokesman said “Independent Health has a comprehensive network of area providers, including nearly 60 local midwives. Neither Fika Midwifery nor Maura Winkler participate in our network. In addition, authorization for home births requires all providers to meet credentialling and clinical criteria as well as complying with member contract requirements. We deny and will vigorously defend ourselves against all accusations in the complaint. Because this is a pending legal matter, we cannot comment further.”

“Stop telling members that home birth is not a safe and reasonable option, and implying the work that I do is somehow inadequate or unsafe when we know that the care that we give is excellent,” Winkler said.