Easy ways to get the breastfeeding supplies you want through your insurance

If you’re an expectant or new mom who has made the decision to breastfeed your baby, you’re not alone: 79 percent of new mothers initiate breastfeeding following the birth of their babies, according to the CDC 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card. Obtaining the right supplies and support can be key to breastfeeding success, and new healthcare legislation is making it easier than ever for moms-to-be and new moms to breastfeed.

Many new parents, however, are unaware of the financial assistance available to them through their health insurance, health savings accounts and/or flexible spending accounts.

Get an insurance-covered breast pump

Under the Affordable Care Act, most health insurers now are required to cover breastfeeding equipment such as breast pumps without a co-pay, as well as lactation counseling, according to HealthCare.gov. Insurers may set guidelines for what pumps they’ll cover, when and for how long, and they may require pre-authorization from a doctor. To help new and expectant parents understand their options as part of the ACA, leading breast pump manufacturer Medela has compiled information on insurers’ coverage of breast pumps, based on a survey of the largest insurance companies. The results of the survey show that:

* 77 percent will cover rental of a hospital-grade breast pump

* 89 percent provide a pump after delivery rather than prior to birth

* 60 percent will allow you to upgrade to a breast pump of your choice

* 96 percent cover lactation support

If you’re going back to work or will be pumping on the go, you may want to use your insurance for a second pump for additional support in transitioning back to a busy lifestyle.

Use FSA and HSA dollars to upgrade your pump and buy supplies and accessories

Even if your insurance plan doesn’t cover the exact pump you want, you have other options to help you obtain your pump of choice. Health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs) allow you to put aside pre-tax dollars – in conjunction with an employer-sponsored health insurance plan – to be used for a variety of health-related purposes, including pump upgrades and breastfeeding supplies and accessories.

“Support is available to help you on your breastfeeding journey,” says Irene Zoppi, a clinical education specialist at Medela. “Take advantage of financial resources to get the breast pump and supplies you want, and access lactation support you need, to best support your breastfeeding goals.”

Medela offers some tips on how to get the pump, supplies and support you need using your health insurance, HSA and/or FSA accounts:

* Check with your insurance company to determine what kind of pump is covered. Some allow you to purchase a pump and submit a reimbursement request. Others may arrange to pay for a specific pump. Your insurance also may cover pump rental. Find out about breast pump coverage prior to delivery.

* Ask if your insurance company will allow you to upgrade if the pump you want isn’t available. An insurer may allot a certain amount of money toward a pump purchase, and you then can use your HSA or FSA funds to cover any difference in cost.

* Visit healthcare.gov to find a list of covered items, contribution limits and other information about your flexible spending account, or go to the IRS website to learn about health savings accounts.

* Contact your insurer about reimbursement if you’ve already purchased your pump. (You will need recent proof of purchase.)

* Plan for the year ahead. During open enrollment (generally in the last few months of the calendar year), moms should account for potential pump upgrades and breastfeeding supply purchases while allocating FSA/HSA money for 2015.

* Don’t let your funds go to waste. In most cases, FSA money set aside in 2014 must be spent by Dec. 31, so now is the time to consider an upgrade and supplies. (HSA money rolls over from year to year.)

Breastfeeding provides many health benefits to babies and nurtures the bond between mother and infant. Getting the support, breast pump and supplies you need can help ensure breast feeding success for you and your baby.

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