Breastfeeding Coalition Calls for Increased Reimbursement

As the price for hard-to-find formula skyrockets, the AAHomecare group calls on private payer insurance and Medicaid programs to increase coverage for breast pumps and supplies.

As the baby formula shortage worsens, The American Association for Homecare’s Breastfeeding Coalition is calling on insurance carriers and state Medicaid programs to increase coverage for breastfeeding supplies.

Recently, the national out-of-stock rate for baby formula grew to 74 percent for the week ending May 28, according to a report on 130,000 stores from researchers Datasembly.

“As parents scramble to find baby formula, insurance companies and Medicaid plans need to cover breastmilk storage bags and the breast pump replacement parts to support the increased need to breastfeed and pump,” a statement from the association read.

The Biden administration has engaged the Department of Health and Human Services to carry out formula relief efforts such as the ongoing Operation Fly Formula program, which, for example, flew 44,000 pounds of Nestlé formula from Switzerland to Louisville, Ky. today.

However, while those efforts are underway, the shortage still remains. So, it is imperative that mothers have access to breast pumps prior to delivery and have continued access to breast pump supplies and milk storage bags, according to the AHomecare statement.

“There has never been a more important time for insurance companies, including state Medicaid plans, to support breastfeeding,” Jason Canzano, co-chair of the AAHomecare Breastfeeding Coalition, said. “As a coalition of breastfeeding equipment providers, we are seeing a strong increase in demand for breast pumps, replacement parts, and breastmilk storage bags.” 

Already, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about six months, followed by continued breastfeeding while complementary foods are introduced, with the continuation of breastfeeding for one year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.

In the United States, 84 percent of new mothers initiate breastfeeding, 58 percent are still breastfeeding and pumping at six months, and 35 percent are breastfeeding at 12 months. 

Besides addressing the immediate need for formula, the association’s statement noted that “boosting breastfeeding initiation and duration rates would help change the proportions of human milk to formula and would bring substantial health care savings,” which would benefit insurers and Medicaid programs.

The statement noted that infants receiving human milk had reduced risks of asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes, severe lower respiratory diseases, and gastrointestinal infections. Also, breastfeeding can help lower a mother’s risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and ovarian and breast cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

How much money could that save insurance programs? While recent data is not available, a 2010 report abstract from Melissa Bartick and Arnold Reinhold noted, “If 90 percent of U.S. families could comply with medical recommendations to breastfeed exclusively for six months, the United States would save $13 billion per year and prevent an excess of 911 deaths, nearly all of which would be infants ($10.5 billion and 741 deaths at 80 percent compliance).”

“While increasing breastfeeding initiation and duration rates will not completely solve the immediate baby formula shortage, it can change the proportions of human milk to formula, improve public health, and provide savings to our health care system,” AAHomecare’s association added.

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