A very close girlfriend of mine happens to be pregnant right now as well and she told me something recently that sounded too good to be true. She mentioned that, due to some provisions in the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – her insurance was going to cover the cost of her breastfeeding supplies, including a pump!
Regardless of your feelings about Obamacare, this is exciting news. At least it was for me. As a mommy-to-be who will be trying to breastfeed and work I have been researching higher-end breast pumps and they are EXPENSIVE. The double-electric models (allowing you to pump both breasts at the same time with greater efficiency) can run up to $300 at least.
So all you ladies out there who are expecting, or if you know someone who is expecting, take note. Here’s what I’ve been able to dig up on the expanded maternity coverage provisions of Obamacare.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, under the Affordable Care Act, “women’s preventive health care – such as mammograms, screenings for cervical cancer, prenatal care, and other services – is covered with no cost sharing for new health plans.”
This includes “breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.” More specifically, comprehensive lactation support and counseling by a trained provider during pregnancy and/or in the postpartum period, plus costs for renting breastfeeding equipment.
Some insurance companies are going beyond just covering equipment rentals and offering to cover the cost of some or all of a personal breast pump! United Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest insurance providers, is adopting this approach.
Per the company’s website, “UnitedHealthcare will cover the purchase of a personal, double-electric breast pump at no cost to the member.”
“To rent or purchase breast pumps, members will be required to contact UnitedHealthcare or a network physician, hospital or durable medical equipment (DME) supplier. The physician, hospital or DME supplier will bill UnitedHealthcare directly for reimbursement. Members will not be able to purchase supplies, such as breast pumps, at retail and send the receipt for reimbursement.”
A quick scan of the comment sections of several popular mommy blogs reveals stories of folks getting brand-name equipment like Medela and Ameda using this approach!
There are of course, some “catches” with this exciting development. Depending on when your insurance plan “rolled” over – or when the start of your new policy year begins – you may not be eligible for expanded maternity care coverage or a breast pump.
As I learned when I checked into my own eligibility, there are also “grandfathered” insurance plans, which are not required to comply with all of the new ACA guidelines immediately – even though those guidelines were upheld as legal. Here’s an explanation of how those “grandfathered” plans can operate as such.
If, like me, you sadly don’t get to take advantage of this new benefit from the ACA due to “grandfathering” or other conditions that partially exempt your insurance provider, take heart. You may still be able to save some money on your breast feeding equipment!
Many employers offer what are called “flexible spending accounts.” Pre-tax money deposited in such an account can be used to cover the cost of many medical supplies including breast pumps and related equipment! As the New York Times reported, “the Internal Revenue Service announced [in 2011] that it would grant nursing mothers a tax break on pumps and other breastfeeding supplies.”
If you don’t have a flexible spending account, you might still be able to get a tax break. The New York Times also stated that those “without flexible spending accounts may deduct breast-feeding costs if their total unreimbursed medical expenses exceed 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income and they itemize.”
So… all that said, make sure to check with your insurance provider or company HR department to see if you are entitled to a free breast pump or lactation support classes! If not, keep an eye out for extra savings come tax season. Then you can spend the money saved on cute baby clothes!
Ladies, if you’ve tried any of these money-saving techniques for breast feeding, feel free to share your experiences below!