As of now (February 2014), TRICARE (federal military health benefits program) does NOT cover breast pumps, support and counseling (except in special cases when a baby is premature and fits certain criteria). (Source: National Military Family Association).
However, there is possible good news on the horizon!
On February 5, 2014, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill introduced legislation that, if passed, would require TRICARE to cover breast pumps, support and counseling for military families in the same way the ACA covers such support and equipment for civilian moms under private insurance.
February 10, 2014
Office of U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill
United States Senate
Hart Senate Office Building, Ste. 506
Washington, D.C. 20510
Re: S. 1994: TRICARE Moms Improvement Act of 2014
Dear Senator McCaskill,
I am a small business owner, and a mom who breastfed, writing to express my support for Senate Bill 1994, the TRICARE Moms Improvement Act of 2014. I commend you for introduction of this important legislation, which would require TRICARE to provide breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling to moms in this military health benefits program, just as the Affordable Care Act mandates for most private health plans. My business offers moms accessories for breast pumping, so I am very aware, through regular conversations with moms of all types, of how many members of the military and their spouses would be benefitted by this legislation. This is also especially important to me as a Virginia resident, whose business is also based in the state, where we have a uniquely high number of military families living and serving.
The benefits of breastfeeding are evidence-based and profound; according to the Office on Women’s Health of the US Department of Health and Human Services:
• Breastmilk protects babies from illness and can also reduce the risk of Type 1 diabetes, childhood leukemia and other serious illnesses, as well as lowering the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS);
• Breastfeeding is healthy for moms, including lowering their risk of Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and postpartum depression;
• Breastfeeding saves families money on the cost of formula and illness; and
• Breastfeeding saves insurers and employers (including the military) money on the expenses of medical care and lost workplace productivity (both due to infant illness).
A critical component of moms successfully breastfeeding their children is post-partum support from medical providers, lactation consultants and others who can assist them through challenges. Further, moms need a breast pump and supplies in order to continue lactation while away from baby, which is quite common for reasons such as holding a job outside the home or when there is difficulty latching an infant to the breast.
The federal government made great strides in providing access to breastfeeding support and supplies for new moms who have private insurance through passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, it is mystifying that the government does not include such a benefit in it’s own federally managed plan for military members and spouses. This bill makes good economic sense on a number of levels and, in my opinion, articulates a core component of any basic health coverage plan, military or not, as breastfeeding is one of the most evidence-based and straightforward ways to enhance the health and well-being of moms and babies. It is time for TRICARE to catch-up to the ACA on this provision and provide equal access to breastfeeding support and supplies for military moms. Thank you for recognizing the importance of this issue. I hope to see strong support for the passage of Senate Bill 1994; I will certainly do my part by reaching out to legislators in my state.
CEO & Founder
Sarah Wells, LLC