Health Care In The States

Many Breast-Feeding Moms Unaware Of Health Law Help

By Lisa Stiffler, Seattle Times

August 27th, 2013, 3:00 PM

This story was produced in partnership with

New moms crave information, whether it’s car-seat safety ratings, the pros and cons of pacifiers or how best to sooth a colicky infant.

So it’s a little surprising that many moms aren’t up to speed on how the Affordable Care Act could benefit them. The law has specific requirements targeting moms, including coverage for breast pumps and consultants to help breast-feeding mothers.

“So many moms don’t know about the benefit,” said Cary Seely, director of provider relations at Pumping Essentials, a California-based company selling supplies and services to assist in breast-feeding.

While many of the changes mandated by the Affordable Care Act will benefit low-income Americans by expanding access to health insurance, the Obama administration has tried to build support among a wide swath of the public. Officials routinely tout reforms included in the new law that are designed to help the middle class. Among them are provisions that mandate insurance coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions; allow adult kids to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they’re 26; require free preventive services such as mammograms, colonoscopies and flu shots — and institute the breast-feeding provisions.

But in a recent poll, only 36 percent of Americans surveyed said the law “will make things better” for the middle class.

When Whitney Courson, of Seattle, was pregnant earlier this year with her first son, a friend advised her that her insurance might pay for a breast pump, which generally costs $200 to $400 for an electric model. She forgot about the tip, even putting the pump on her baby-gift registry, hoping someone would buy it for her. Then another parent mentioned the benefit at a childbirth class.

This time, Courson called a representative at Premera Blue Cross, her insurance provider through her husband’s job at, and learned it would cover the cost of a breast pump. She bought one and had her baby, Nicholas, in July.

She loves the ability to pump and store milk so that she can bottle-feed her son when she needs to, or so that someone else can feed him in her absence.

“Now I’m telling everybody I know, ‘Call your insurance, this is amazing,’ ” she said.

The Affordable Care Act provision supporting breast-feeding went into effect for new health-insurance plans a year ago, but many plans didn’t incorporate the benefit until January 2013, when they were renewed.

One hurdle to more widespread use of the provision is the vague language used to describe it, leaving insurance companies to come up with their own interpretations of what it means.

Many plans require women to purchase their supplies from an approved medical-device provider, while other others will allow a mom to get reimbursed for a purchase made anywhere. Some will pay only for a handheld, nonelectric device, while others cover more premium pumps. The rule is even more unclear on the lactation-support provision, with no definition of who is qualified to assist a woman trying to breast-feed.

When Courson initially found breast-feeding difficult, she again turned to her insurance provider.

“I had so many questions and concerns. I wanted to see a lactation consultant so I called insurance just to see.”

Courson learned that she had coverage for counseling, and found a provider who would visit her home. Now more than a month after delivering Nicholas, breast-feeding is going well.

“Knowing this kind of care is available and covered … that is huge,” she said.

3 Responses to “Many Breast-Feeding Moms Unaware Of Health Law Help”

  1. Pappy says:

    You would think that members of Congress from both sides would be educating their constituents about such important benefits. Not Republicans. You can count on the fact that Republican members of Congress are not going to tell you anything about how to get breast-feeding help if it’s contained in the new health reform law. If you have a Republican member of Congress, tough luck! If you call their office asking for breast-feeding help, they will probably tell you to go ask your mother about how to breast feed. You can be sure that Republicans will never say anything good about the new health law for fear of a primary challenge. Republicans, especially moderate Republicans from swing states, are in a very bad place. They may have a moderate constituency, but there’s always the loud mouth crazies they must worry about. For sure, the GOP has it’s fair share of crazies these days.

  2. Sassette says:

    To clarify, the above response from Pappy… the young lady in the article did not contact her representative in Congress. She contacted a respresentative fof her insurance provider. The article is directing women with questions to contact their insurance providers not Congress to find out more about breast-feeding pumps and assistance. This is not a Democrat/Republican issue, it is an insurance provider to insurance provider issue as they all have implemented the law differently.

  3. anna says:

    So I guess you think insurance companies would be forthcoming about advising their policy holders where to find breast-feeding counseling? Gee, wouldn’t that mean that the insurance company might be getting a claim for those counseling services? Gee, wouldn’t that mean that the insurance company might be on the hook to cover those counseling services? Gee, wouldn’t that mean that those counseling services would be just one more added expense for the insurance company? So, let me see if I understand you correctly. You say insurance companies would be forthcoming about advising their policy holders about where to access breast-feeding counseling, even if it might cost them more money, right? In my opinion, I believe the opposite is true. I believe, as has always been their practice in the past, that insurance companies will never give you advice that may generate a claim. I believe tradition proves that insurance companies see their best customers as those that never ask a question or submit a claim. I believe that insurance companies see their best customers as those that simply do nothing more than send in their premium payment.