For any mother out there that plans to exclusively breastfeed her baby and do away with all the baby milk formulas on the market, we cannot stress it enough how much lifesavers breast pumps are.
But let’s cut straight to the chase – these things are the certainly not cheap to get, especially if you have your eye set on one of the better and more popular electrical breast pumps on the market.
Some of the more advanced models can set you back up a couple of hundred dollars to buy.
While manual breast pumps are fairly affordable for any mom to get, they don’t suit the needs of all nursing mothers alike. And still, no matter how affordable these manual pumps may be for you, they may be unaffordable to someone else.
So, if you really need a breast pump but can’t pay for one, what’s there to do? The good news is, some of you reading this may be eligible to get one for free!
How exactly? Read along.
How To Get A Free Breast Pump If You Have Health Insurance
If you have health insurance and currently reside in the USA, then guess what – you’re in luck!
Ever heard of the Affordable Care Act? You may not know it by this name, but you’ve definitely heard of it by its other name “Obamacare”. This act is a health insurance reform legislation that was put in place back in 2010 and signed by (then) president Barack Obama.
The act did not go into full effect until August of 2012, but you don’t really care about that, all that matters is it’s in effect nowadays (as of this writing, at least).
Here’s what this act has in store for you (as far as breast pumps are concerned, of course). It basically requires insurance companies to completely cover the costs of your breast pumps, as well as other breastfeeding supplies and accessories involved.
Not only that, it also requires insurance companies to cover at least one visit to a lactation consultant for you.
Awesome, right?! Can you imagine getting one of the advanced breast pumps that go for almost 300$? Exciting!
Well, not so fast – it’s not that simple (I wish it was). Some moms will be this lucky, while others won’t.
Because this act does not go into specifics much, a lot of wiggle room is left for the insurance company to “interpret” things certain ways, and this is why you won’t see all insurance companies deal with this act the same way.
Not too sure what we mean? The following is left up to the insurance company to “interpret” and decide on its own.
- What type of breast pump will the company provide for free? Is it a manual breast pump or electric breast pump? Is it one that’s high in price or one that’s low in price? There’s no rule set in stone for this for companies to adhere to and every company has different policies they go by. (With that being said, the best insurance plans will usually cover you for an electric breast pump).
- How many visits to a lactation consultant will the company cover for you? The Affordable Care Act states that insurance companies have to cover “at least one” visit, so will your company cover 1 visit? 2 visits? 3 visits? 5? Etc .. This is up to them to decide.
1) Pre-Shopping Homework
Note: This only applies to mothers who don’t yet have health insurance and are looking for providers. If you already have health insurance from one company and don’t see yourself changing anytime soon, then jump to section #2 and skip this part.
Before you choose any health insurance plan, ask nursing mothers in your circle of contacts about what companies they use, how their experience with them is/was, whether or not they’d recommend them to you and – most importantly – what perks they give you as a breastfeeding mother (free breast pumps, free lactation consultant visits, etc ..).
2) Talk To Your Insurance Company
If you already have an insurance company and can’t change it (which is the case with many mothers that benefit from insurance companies through their employers), then you should give them a call/visit and ask any questions you have.
You’ll get all the answers you need to your questions about their breast pump policy then and there.
They’ll inform you how many breast pumps they cover for free throughout your insurance plan, what types and models of breast pumps they offer (so you can run a price check on them if you’d like to and see what kind of quality you’ll be getting), how many visits to lactation consultants they cover, what their coverage limit on lactation consultant fees is, etc ..
A Quick Note About Meeting With Lactation Consultants
Some insurance companies actually state that meeting with a lactation consultant is a prerequisite to receiving a free breast pump, as per their policies.
As we noted towards the beginning of this article, the Affordable Care Act states that the insurance company should also cover at least one visit you make to a lactation consultant.
After covering this one visit as the bare minimum, different insurance companies handle future meetings in different ways – some of them cover the cost of more than one visit for you, while others unfortunately don’t.
You should also take note that while some insurance companies will request that you only meet a lactation consultant that’s certified from the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE), this is not stated in the act and you’re not required to do that by law.
This should not be a problem most of the times, but if it is (for whatever reason), be sure to mention this to your insurance company and see what you two can work out.
A Quick Note About Grandfathered Plans
If you’re grandfathered in an insurance plan, grandfathered plans are not required by law to offer you these benefits.
This is because the Affordable Care Act was instated at a later date, which wouldn’t be fair to these insurance companies. They obviously can’t predict the future, right?
To talk specific dates, any plan that was created or purchased before March 23, 2010 is considered to be a grandfathered plan, and is one where the insurance company is not required by law to cover the cost of your breast pumps.
But, just because you were grandfathered in a plan does not mean you shouldn’t at least ask your insurance company what they can do for you. You never know what they could work out for you, and asking is free! 🙂
Something Cool You Can Do Directly With Your Breast Pump Supplier
Depending on which supplier you buy your breast pump from, they could possibly take care of all of this for you from start to finish.
Now note that when we talk about breast pump suppliers, we’re not talking about the companies and brands that actually manufacture these pumps. We’re talking about companies that sell these pumps.
So, for example, the same supplier may have a wide collection of breast pumps for you to buy from them, such as ones from Lansinoh, Hygeia, Ameda, Medela and Phillips Avent.
An increasing number of breast pump suppliers nowadays will cover the cost of the breast pump that you buy from them, complete all the paperwork with your insurance company and handle the entire process from start to finish.
Sounds much better than the hassle (and sometimes huge time drain) of having to deal with getting reimbursed for your breast pump yourself, if you ask me.
Be Careful Though, Not All Suppliers Are “Created” Equally
Unfortunately, though, you’re not as free to go ahead and deal with just about any breast pump supplier you find and like as you may have thought you are.
In order for a supplier to successfully file a claim to your insurance company and have them cover the cost of your breast pump, the insurance company must deal with the supplier you got your breast pump from as part of their policy.
If the insurance company you’re under doesn’t work with the supplier you get your breast pump from, then you’re out of luck and you won’t manage to get reimbursed this way.
At the end of the day, it’s all about different policies that different companies have.
When a supplier has a deal like this set in place with a specific insurance company, the supplier gets referred to as an “in network provider”.
What Should I Do If I Already Bought A Breast Pump? Did I Miss Out?
If you’ve already purchased a breast pump with your own money before realizing that insurance companies cover this for you, then don’t panic just yet, not all hope is lost.
Depending on what company you’re insured with, what their policies are like, what type of breast pump you’ve purchased and what company manufactures it – you may be able to take the pump to your insurance company, show it to them and prove it’s yours (all you usually need is the receipt), and they could possibly reimburse you for the amount you’ve paid for it.
It all depends on whether or not their policies cover the breast pump type you have and deal with the manufacturing company that makes it.
What Should I Do If I Don’t Qualify For Receiving A Free Breast Pump?
If for any of the possible reasons we mentioned above (or other reasons) you do not qualify for receiving a free breast pump and having its cost entirely covered by your insurance company, all is not lost.
You may still qualify for other useful breastfeeding supplies and accessories, so do also ask about those just in case you do qualify for them, to make sure you’re not losing out on anything else you might have gotten for free.
The Checklist – What Questions You Should Ask Your Insurance Company
For the sake of convenience and keeping all your thoughts in one basket, here’s a checklist of the most important questions you should ask your insurance company when you contact them about your potentially free breast pump.
- Are there any conditions for me to be given a free breast pump that I don’t know of? Do I have to go back to work before I receive one?
- Will there be any kind of prescription required for me to get from my doctor?
- What’s the type of pump that I’ll be given? Is it a manual breast pump or an electric breast pump?
- What are the brands of pumps that my plan covers?
- What are the breast pump models included in my plan?
- Are there any other breastfeeding supplies and accessories my insurance plan covers? Do you also cover stuff like milk bottles, breast milk storage bags and tube replacements? (When talking about breastfeeding supplies that should be covered for you, the legislation does not make it clear what these supplies are. So, this is another issue that’s left open for different insurance companies to interpret their own way and make their own policies on).
- What’s the maximum dollar amount in terms of a breast pump price that my plan covers me for?
- Does my plan cover the rental of hospital grade breast pumps for a pre-determined specific period of time? If so, how long of a period will that be?
- Are there any specific suppliers my plan limits me to? If so, which suppliers are these? Can you give me a list of their names?
- Am I limited to specific pumps provided by your in-network suppliers? Or will you also cover the costs of a different pump that I buy from a supplier that’s not in your network?
- Will you reimburse me for my costs if I buy a specific pump on my own and I later file a claim? If so, how much time will it take for the process to finish? And what paperwork would be required from me in such a case?
- What can you do for me if I’ve already spent money on a breast pump that I purchased before?
- Will you cover the cost of my breast pump if I buy it during pregnancy? Or will I have to wait till after delivery for you to cover the costs? (Ask this knowing that most insurance companies provide you with a breast pump during the first year of your baby’s life after they’re born).
- Will I get a new free breast pump for each new baby I give birth to? Or does my plan limit me to one (or more) breast pumps no matter how many babies I give birth to? (The law states that you should be given a new free breast pump for each new baby you deliver, but you’d be surprised how complicated some insurance companies make this process for you if they don’t feel like adhering to it).
As you already know by now, there are one too many proven and time tested benefits for mothers who breastfeed, ones that would be a shame if you (and your baby) miss out on.
Many mothers have to abstain from breastfeeding (whether that’s direct breastfeeding or pumping) because of certain conditions they have, such as severe breast sensitivity and pain, illnesses or medication that may be passed on to baby, and so on.
But for you to not breastfeed just because you can’t afford a breast pump is a real shameful situation – one that you can hopefully change for the better after what you’ve learned throughout this article.