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Some Worry Anthem Changes Could Discourage Breastfeeding

breast pump

A double electric breast pump displayed on a mannequin. (File, Wikimedia Commons)

Insurance company Anthem is cutting how much it reimburses new mothers for the cost of breast pumps.

Anthem says the changes won’t impact anyone’s ability to still get a pump. But critics say the quality isn’t the same and the pumps that are provided now aren’t adequate for mothers who have to go back to work shortly after giving birth.

The Affordable Care Act mandated breast pump coverage. That led to a big increase in the number of breastfeeding moms. According to a study from Indiana University researchers, in one year under the ACA 47,000 more infants were breasted.

But now Anthem is reducing its reimbursement rate by almost half.

And certified lactation consultant at the Indiana Milk Bank, Sarah Long worries about the impact that’s going to have on new mothers and infants.

“We know that those pumps, if they’re only reimbursing for a certain amount and it’s almost half of what it was, it goes without saying that these pumps probably are not as efficient or high quality as they were before,” says Long.

The pumps insurance companies were providing under the ACA ranged from about $300 – $500. Long says mothers who are going back to work need access to a high-quality pump they can use everyday. She says many of the less expensive models aren’t meant for daily use.

“We live in a country where mothers go back to work fairly quickly so it’s not something that is really seen as a luxury item. It’s a necessity,” Long says.

In a statement Anthem senior public relations director Tony Felts Anthem is committed to making sure mothers have the tools and support they need to breastfeed. He continues, “The recent adjustment to the commercial health plan fee schedule for all durable medical equipment, including breast pumps, will not impact the ability of any new mother to access a high-quality, standard double-electric breast pump from our contracted medical suppliers.”

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