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I Know All About The ACA’s Breastfeeding Benefit, and I Couldn’t Get Services Covered

Last week, the National Women’s Law Center issued the third report in a series examining insurance plan compliance with the Affordable Care Act, State of Breastfeeding Coverage: Health Plan Violations of the Affordable Care Act. Previous reports on women’s health coverage and birth control coverage found extensive violations of the law. The third report examines insurance plan noncompliance with the ACA’s breastfeeding benefits and comes to similar conclusions.

The ACA Is a Huge Step Forward

The ACA made dramatic improvements in women’s health coverage. The ACA ensures that health insurance companies can no longer discriminate against women, and requires plans to offer women coverage for maternity care and prescription drugs. And they must cover preventive services, such as breastfeeding supports and supplies and birth control, without any copayments, deductibles or coinsurance.

Health Insurance Plans Must Comply With the Law Read more »

Why Women Should Care About the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015

Congress recently recessed for the rest of the year. One of the bills it passed was the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2015. The bill included many provisions important to women in the military:

Coverage of Breastfeeding Supplies and Education

The NDAA for FY 2015 requires the TRICARE program to cover breastfeeding supplies and education for military women and women in military families. This legislation represents a huge win for military families and ensures that they have breastfeeding coverage that is similar to the coverage provided in most private health plans. Read more »

Breastfeeding in a Digital World

Full disclosure: I spend all day on Facebook. I’m doing important advocacy and outreach, and like to think I’m helping to change the world for women and girls, but still, half the words I use are hashtagged. And because I spend so much time on social media (and because I’m in my twenties), I see a lot of baby pictures. I mean a lot. But I haven’t seen any pictures of my Facebook friends breastfeeding — even now, during National Breastfeeding Month.

It may be that Facebook (and Instagram, which it owns) doesn’t want me to see breastfeeding pictures. A few years ago, the company found itself in hot water over its standards for deleting breastfeeding images. It recently amended its policy, though user complaints still have the potential to get a photo deleted. Of course Facebook has every right to enforce its anti-obscenity policies, but to label feeding a baby “obscene”? That’s out of line. Read more »

National Breastfeeding Month: Celebrating Moms, Babies, and the Affordable Care Act

It’s no accident that the US Breastfeeding Committee (“USBC”) chose August as National Breastfeeding Month. After all, it’s the most popular month to be born in the United States. This year the USBC kicked off #NBM14 by inviting Americans to share in #SixWords what breastfeeding means to them.

The facts are clear. Breastfeeding means: Read more »

A Big Week for Breastfeeding

You may already know that one of the Affordable Care Act’s great new preventive benefits for women is coverage of breastfeeding supports and supplies. Women with health coverage through the new Marketplaces, and many who have coverage through an employer, are now able to get breast pumps and help from a lactation consultant as they learn to breastfeed, deal with breastfeeding problems and, if they choose, return to work – without any out-of-pocket expense! Breastfeeding benefits both moms and babies, and this coverage helps women overcome some of the problems they often encounter as they start breastfeeding or if they go back to work as nursing mothers.

What you may not know is that women in the military and women in military families, who have health coverage through TRICARE, have not been eligible for this new preventive benefit. But this week, just in time for Memorial Day, both houses of Congress have taken big steps towards fixing this problem. Read more »

Fair Treatment for Breastfeeding Moms

As we marked the 35th anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, we reflected on how pregnancy is still used as an excuse to push women out of work. It turns out lactating on the job can be just as dangerous for women. Take the case of Bobbi Bockoras. Bobbi works at a glass factory in Pennsylvania. She gave birth earlier this year and informed her employer she would be breastfeeding her child and so needed time to pump during her shift. Instead of providing Bobbi with a safe space to do so, her employer asked why she could not pump in a bathroom, which is prohibited by the federal law in light of health and privacy concerns. When Bobbi told her employer that she had a legal right to pump in a space that is not a bathroom, her employer placed her in a first-aid room, where her co-workers pounded on the door to get in, greased the doorknob to the room, and openly mocked her by insinuating she was a cow.

When Bobbi complained about these incidents, her supervisor instead placed her in an old locker room covered in dead bugs and with exposed electrical wiring and no air conditioning. He also retaliated against her by removing her from the day shift—which allowed her to breastfeed her baby on a regular schedule—to a rotating shift that took a toll on her body and caused her to produce less milk for her newborn. Read more »

New Benefits for Moms in the Affordable Care Act: How to Get Breast-feeding Support and Supplies

A recent New York Times blog, Breast-Feeding Services Lag the Law, describes the challenges women face trying to obtain this new benefit. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, requires “new” health plans to cover certain preventive services without cost-sharing, which means enrollees should not face out-of-pocket costs such as co-payments, deductibles or co-insurance. (If you want more information about which plans are considered “new” see our helpful fact sheet.)

These new plans are required to cover breast-feeding support, supplies and counseling. The counseling component is critical, because some mothers find initiating and maintaining breast-feeding challenging. The law recognizes this difficulty and requires plans to cover “comprehensive prenatal and postnatal lactation support [and] counseling.” This means that breastfeeding mothers now have health insurance coverage for lactation counseling without cost-sharing for as long as they are breastfeeding.

But, as the article describes, some insurance companies may be slow to fully cover this benefit by failing to provide a list of in-network providers, or referring women to other providers like pediatricians who may not be trained in lactation counseling. Read more »

“Most New Moms Could Use Help… And Thanks to Obamacare, Help is Available”

A recent NPR blog To Succeed at Breast-feeding, Most Moms Could Use Some Help details problems many new mothers have when initiating breast-feeding. But blog does not mention some exciting news—a new health care benefit that is already helping mothers start and continue breast-feeding. Breast-feeding is good for moms and good for babies, and new moms can get the help they need getting started, thanks to the health care law, also known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

The law requires all “new” health plans to cover breast-feeding support and supplies without cost sharing, which means not paying for a co-payment, co-insurance, or deductible. Read more »

Getting the Breast Pump She Deserves: My Sister’s Story

When my sister Leah found out she was pregnant with her second child, she knew that she wanted to breast feed the new baby for a year. She planned to go back to work when her daughter was only 4 months old, so she needed a breast pump. In December of 2012, she called her insurance company to find out what kind of coverage the company would provide. During that first call, Leah was given the run around. Everyone she spoke to told her it was not their responsibility to cover her breast pump, she should call someone else. After several useless calls, Leah gave up.

Six months later I started an internship at the National Women’s Law Center. I learned that the health care law requires insurance companies to provide coverage of breast pumps for women without co-pays or deductibles. However, my sister, like many women, still didn’t know about this part of the law, so I decided to give her a call. We talked through her situation and I directed her to some NWLC resources, including the NLWC toolkit, that could help her get the coverage she deserves. Read more »

Breast Pumps Aren’t a Fashion Accessory

This weekend, the Washington Post published an article describing how the breast pump industry is faring now that the health care law requires health insurance coverage of such pumps. The article quoted our very own Judy Waxman and yours truly. As expected, there were many comments from readers vehemently disagreeing with the premise of covering breast pumps. The gist of the complaint is: “why should I pay for other peoples’ breast pumps. Why do women get these things for free?”

My initial response to these complaints is – as I have explained time and again – women are not getting their birth control or pumps for “free.” They are paying for it when they pay for health insurance, either by working for it and having it included as part of the employee’s benefit package (and likely still paying part of the premium) or by paying for it directly on the individual market. So this stuff isn’t “free,” the woman IS paying for it. Do you call the preventive care visits that now don’t have a no co-pay as “free?” No, it is not free. You pay premiums to your health insurance company so that they cover these medical care costs when you need such care. Read more »