Health & Medicine

Health insurance must cover breast pumps

Corday Piston, Baptist Health
Corday Piston, Baptist Health Herald-Leader

We know that breast milk is best for babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics wants babies to have breast milk for at least the first year of life, but modern moms have faced several potential roadblocks to providing that breast milk.

Many moms want to breast-feed for a year but need to also work outside the home. In the past, pricey pumps and lack of time to pump at work has sabotaged many moms. New federal laws are supporting mothers to help them reach the one-year goal.

The Affordable Health Care Act is making it easier for working moms to maintain breast-feeding. Health insurance companies are now required to pay for breast-feeding support. Unless your plan was "grandfathered in," your insurance will pay for a double electric, high-quality breast pump. Many plans also cover breast-feeding supplies and even visits with a lactation consultant, a health professional who has specialized training and certifications in breast-feeding.

Insurance companies have different ways of getting breast pumps to you, such as ordering from a specific website. Calling the phone number on the back of your insurance card is the first step to finding out what your plan covers.

Private time and space for a mom to pump at work is also in the Affordable Health Care Act. According to the U.S. Department of Labor website, your employer is required to let you pump milk at work. Employers must provide a place to pump that is shielded from view, is not a bathroom and is free from interruptions.

Employers also have to provide adequate break time for a mom to pump for one full year after delivery. Having a pumping plan in place with your employer before you start maternity leave can make the adjustment smoother when you return.

Mothers have been told for years that breast milk is better. Babies who receive breast milk are less likely to get sick. Breast-fed babies have a lower rate of ear infections and diarrhea, resulting in their parents having lower rates of absenteeism. Moms who breast-feed also receive health benefits, such as lower rates of breast cancer.

Helping moms provide milk for their babies is in insurance companies' and employers' best financial interest.