Q: I’ve heard that insurance companies are now required to provide breast-feeding mothers with a breast pump. Is this true? When I called my insurance carrier, the person with whom I spoke did not know the answer.
Breast milk is widely accepted as the superior source of infant nutrition. Breast-feeding provides health benefits for both mother and baby. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 77 percent of mothers initiate breast-feeding while in the hospital. For many of these mothers, returning to work makes it difficult to continue breast-feeding.
The good news for these working mothers is that the Affordable Care Act requires that health insurers pay the full cost of breast pumps for nursing mothers, and many insurers began honoring this provision in January. However, navigating the process can be cumbersome.
The first step is to contact your insurance carrier. Since this is a new policy, you may reach someone who does not know the answer. Call back and try again or ask for a supervisor.
Most insurance carriers require that a breast pump be purchased through a Durable Medical Equipment Provider (DME). Although the insurance company can provide a list of DMEs in your area, most of them do not carry breast pumps. You may have to call several. I suggest starting with DMEs associated with a hospital since many of these already have lactation services.
All breast pumps are not created equal. The Affordable Care Act does not place any specifications regarding the quality of the breast pump that will be supplied. Working mothers will usually need a double electric pump to maintain supply, and some insurance carriers will only provide manual breast pumps.
Also note: Insurance carriers are not reimbursing mothers for previously purchased breast pumps.
Rhonda Patt is a pediatrician with Charlotte Pediatric Clinic. Email firstname.lastname@example.org; put “pediatrician,” in the subject line.