Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Call for Legislation to Protect Breastfeeding Mothers


 by Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

Regardless of where you fall politically or how you feel about the Affordable HealthCare Act of 2010 (Obamacare), the fact is that breastfeeding mothers have been granted some amazing benefits as a direct result of this legislation. Mothers in 2017 can expect certain rights and benefits that their counterparts just 10 years ago did not enjoy.
  • Insurance coverage of a breast pump (the type of pump may vary based upon the particular insurance plan a mother has).
  • Lactation support covered by insurance (this again depends upon the availability of in-network providers).
  • Mandated break time to pump at work and a place to pump that is not a bathroom.
With plans in place to repeal Obamacare, mothers stand to lose these valuable benefits. This is a problem not only for the individual mothers affected, but ultimately for society as a whole. Research has demonstrated that when we enable mothers to breastfeed for a longer period of time, healthcare costs for the child are actually reduced. This savings is especially significant for low-income populations.  Furthermore, when mothers receive support for pumping in the workplace, it actually provides significant savings to their employers. In fact, this document has been prepared specifically to help employers realize those savings by providing a mother-friendly atmosphere in the workplace.
This is a valuable resource for employers.

The Future 

As we look toward the future, It seems that there is some semblance of a plan to move forward. However, there are certainly no guarantees that coverage for the things that are important to breastfeeding mothers will continue. If these coverages are dropped, it will affect millions of mothers who must return to work after giving birth. Their babies may not have the same ease of access to breastmilk enjoyed by babies in the last few years. These mothers may not have access to affordable professional lactation support.

One solution that would ensure the continuation of these benefits is specific legislation that does mandate continued coverage of breast pumps and professional lactation support. It should also mandate workplace access to a safe, clean, private place to pump as well as non-penalized break time, expanding that coverage to include salaried employees as well as hourly employees. Under current law many salaried managers do not enjoy the same protection that hourly workers in the same company are guaranteed. Teachers and other professionals may also struggle because they are not protected by the laws that ensure other workers can pump. 

from the Kansas Business Case
During the last two Congressional sessions, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12) sponsored the Supporting Working Moms Act. The goal of this piece of legislation was to ensure a fair and uniform national policy by extending the current law to cover salaried employees. I would propose that this Act be expanded to include all of the breastfeeding provisions that stand to be lost if Obamacare is repealed. Furthermore, I would hope to see it's passage linked in some way to any healthcare reform that is passed. If the goal is to ultimately save money, this is a clear way to ensure that fewer healthcare dollars are spent on sick babies.

Simple Wishes makes working and pumping easy.
In the current political climate, it would be good for this bill to be seen as a bi-partisan effort. Therefore, I would hope to see Republican co-sponsors step forth. This is not a Democrat or Republican matter. Rather, it affects the right of all babies to receive the nutrition designed specifically for them.  I urge you to contact your senators and representatives to ask them to co-sponsor the Supporting Working Moms Act and expand it to protect the provisions that could be lost if the Affordable Healthcare Act is Repealed.

My Letter

Dear Senator Shelby,

I work with mothers and babies every day as a lactation consultant in North Alabama. Although I was not a proponent of Obamacare, the last few years we have seen an increase in breastfeeding rates. In Alabama breastfeeding initiation rates climbed from 64% in 2010 to 67% in 2014. That 3% increase represents hundreds of thousands of dollars in healthcare savings. More importantly, however, the number of mothers breastfeeding the full year recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics climbed from 11.8% to 15.9%. I believe that increase can be directly attributed to the provisions of the Affordable HealthCare Act which provide breast pumps to mothers and offer guidelines to employers regarding employees who pump. 

I am thankful that this Congress is looking for ways to improve the healthcare dilemma in our nation. There is currently a piece of legislation called the Supporting Working Moms Act that has been introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in the past two Congressional Sessions. Its purpose was to extend the protections of the AHCA to salaried employees. However, I would like to suggest that it be expanded to contain all the protections currently provided to breastfeeding mothers in the AHCA which include the following:
  • Insurance coverage of a breast pump (the type of pump may vary based upon the particular insurance plan a mother has).
  • Lactation support covered by insurance (this again depends upon the availability of in-network providers).
  • Mandated break time to pump at work and a place to pump that is not a bathroom.
I would like to respectfully request that you recommend these changes and co-sponsor this bill that will help thousands of your constituents. Thank you for taking the time to consider this. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have about breastfeeding support in Alabama.

Sincerely yours,

Make It Your Own

I want to challenge each of you to adapt this letter (even if you just use the second paragraph and what follows) and send it to your senators and congressmen. One voice alone doesn't sound very loud, but when we all lift our voices together, they won't be able to ignore our ROAR! 





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