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Nursing Moms Get Free Breast Pumps From Health Law

By Zoe Chace, NPR News

January 28th, 2013, 8:29 AM

This story comes from our partner¬ .

Health insurance plans now have to cover the full cost of breast pumps for nursing mothers. This is the result of a provision in the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), and the new rule took effect for many people at the start of this year.

It’s led to a boom in the sale of the pumps, which can cost hundreds of dollars.

Yummy Mummy, a little boutique on New York’s Upper East Side, has suddenly become a health care provider/online superstore. The company has been hiring like crazy, and just opened an online call center and a warehouse in Illinois. Yummy Mummy even hired somebody to talk to customers’ health insurance companies.

And new moms now seem more likely to splurge on fancy new breast pumps. Caroline Shany, a Yummy Mummy customer, spent her own money to buy a breast pump for her first baby. She may buy another one now because insurance will pick up the tab.

“Why not?” she says.

Weird things happen when you take price out of the equation for consumers. For one thing, they stop looking for the best price. But even though breast pumps are free for new moms, somebody has to pay for them.

“Health insurance premiums are driven by how much we spend on health care,” says Harvard health economist Katherine Baicker. “The more things that are covered by health insurance policies, the more premiums have to rise to cover that spending.”

Advocates of requiring insurance companies to pay for breast pumps say that the measure will pay for itself in the long run.

UCLA’s School of Public Health Dr. Linda Rosenstock,¬†who chaired the team that recommended this provision,¬†says the science is¬†unequivocal. Preventive-care spending upfront leads to¬†¬†fewer health problems down the road.¬† Babies who are breast fed tend to be healthier, and paying for breast pumps should mean more babies are breastfed.

Economist Baicker isn’t sure that eliminating the cost of the breast pumps¬†really induces much extra breastfeeding. She thinks that most of the money spent will go towards people who would have been breastfeeding anyway. “So the question is whether the value that those people get from the breast pumps is worth the cost in terms of increased health spending and increased premiums,” she¬†says.

The outcome may depend partly on how the new rules are implemented. Insurers are still trying to figure out whether to pay for extra-fancy breast pumps, or just basic models.

10 Responses to “Nursing Moms Get Free Breast Pumps From Health Law”

  1. Jo says:

    I think it should only cover the basic model, why do they need a fancy one and whats the difference anyway? Since we end up paying for everything in one way or another-most things that can be-should be basic. Except for joint replacements,pacemakers,etc.

  2. nice product and it affordable only just $100.

  3. MLC says:

    Amazing that a story about “free” breast pumps never tells us how much they actually cost. And what’s the rationale behind the government requiring that they be reimbursed – Blatant holes in this poorly reported story.

  4. Amber Rose says:

    Jo, there is a difference between a basic model and an advance model like the Medela Pump In Style Advanced. First of all the pump will be more gentle on the mother’s breast, and this model in particular comes with a built-in container for 12 hours refrigeration, a couple of bottles and a battery pack if the pump needs to be used on the go or at the park, etc.

    If you need more information head here : , they also make a good point as to why breastfeeding is important!

  5. Dr. Al says:

    The longer babies stay on mother’s milk, the fewer problems they have later on. They develop more robust immune systems, etc. compared to babies who never breastfeed, or breastfeed only briefly.

    In support of that, the breast pump helps the mother make this a convenient and effective activity. It is considered a “prevention strategy,” because downstream problems are prevented.

    There are basically three grades of pumps on the market: First there are small, handheld, often battery-powered units, that basically do what the mom would otherwise do via manual expression of the milk.

    Consumer grade electric pumps provide more sustained suction, help express the milk more completely, and often pump both breasts simultaneously.

    Hospital grade pumps provide the most effective suction, and in many cases mimic the kind of breast stimulation provided by a suckling infant. Most moms don’t need this level of pumping on a sustained basis, but some really do need it in order to get everything off to a good start.

    “Off to a good start” may well be the best way to look at this. Solid research shows that babies who breastfeed — and who have mother’s milk available the longest — gain a preventive care advantage for the future over those who do not. Hence, the decision to cover them under Obamacare is a wise one.

  6. mom3 says:

    To Jo who says “whats the difference anyway” between a basic and fancy model— a mother who is going back to work needs to pump if she wants to continue giving her child breast milk. She will have to effectively pump multiple times a day. If she is using a crappy pump, she is more likely to fail! Not all pumps are created equal. Unfortunately, the pump that most women can afford will not really do a good job at pumping, so when it’s time to go back to work the breastfeeding comes to an end, in a lose/lose situation. I we want women to actually succeed at breastfeeding, than we need to have access to more than just the standard-barely-works model.

  7. Laura says:

    Any help is appreciated on this topic– I tried calling my insurance (Kaiser) (which is ironic as this article is published on and they said it WOULDN’T be free and I’d have to pay 20%… how is this possible if the above says there should be no copay/deductible?

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  9. Elizabeth says:

    Laura -
    I am having this problem with Kaiser too, not only do you have to pay 20% but they will not pay for one if there is no medical necessity! As in a preemie and things like that. So even though I work 12 hours shifts and cant feed my baby, they wont help.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I would love more feedback for Kaiser and if they have to be providing pumps. Thanks!