Will new health care options mean more breastfeeding moms?

Health care reform is helping more moms get breastfeeding assistance at no cost.

Kentucky’s poor ranking when it comes to how many women breastfeed could improve now that health care reform is helping more moms get breastfeeding assistance at no cost.

“Insurance companies and the government are finally recognizing the importance of helping more mothers be successful at breastfeeding,” said Elizabeth Doyle, M.D., director of Lactation Services, Norton Healthcare.

The Affordable Care Act requires most health insurance plans to provide breastfeeding equipment and counseling for pregnant and nursing women. The rules apply to all plans, whether they are purchased through the new health insurance marketplace, an employer or privately (except for plans that were in existence on March 23, 2010, and have stayed basically the same).

Health insurance plans now must cover the cost of the purchase or rental of a breast pump. Most plans will follow doctors’ recommendations on what is medically appropriate. Some plans may require pre-authorization from a doctor to ensure the proper services are provided.

Dr. Doyle said that a 2011 study showed that $13 billion in U.S. health care costs could be saved annually if 90 percent of mothers breastfed their infants exclusively (no formula) for six months.

“The cost savings are huge, but the long-term implications are even bigger,” Dr. Doyle said. “The Affordable Care Act helps shift the focus of health care to prevention. Breastfeeding goes a long way toward not only reducing immediate health care costs but also reducing the risk of future illnesses in the breastfed baby and mother. The time has come for the health care establishment to financially support breastfeeding. It is one of the best disease-prevention tools we have.”

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