By Jessica Sillers
When I was a brand-new mom, I expected breastfeeding to be a natural, simple way to feed my baby.
Natural? Definitely. Breast milk is loaded with nutrition, and delivers amazing benefits for moms as well as babies. Simple? Eh, not so much. Within the first week, I found myself dealing with several challenges establishing a breastfeeding rhythm. My lactation consultant recommended a blend of nursing and pumping to help me reach my exclusive breastfeeding goal.
Luckily, my husband and I knew our health insurance entitled us to breast pump equipment, absolutely free! My biggest piece of advice for new moms in my life is to grab their free pump, too, so they’re ready for whatever breastfeeding might throw their way.
Step 1: Call Your Insurance Company
Under the Affordable Care Act, your health insurance must cover the cost of a breast pump. If you’ve had your current healthcare plan since before March 23, 2010 (the day the ACA was signed), your healthcare provider may not have to follow ACA requirements for a “grandfathered” plan, but otherwise, a pump should count as part of your covered healthcare.
The first question is what kind of pump your insurance will cover. You may be entitled to a new pump that you’ll own, or get reimbursed for a rental. Your insurance provider may have qualifications for what kind of pump they’ll offer you, and when you can get it. Getting on the phone with a representative who can walk you through your options will help you make a plan.
Step 2: Ask the Right Questions
Different health insurance plans can vary when it comes to breast pump options. When you talk to the representative, know what questions to ask to get the details you need about your plan:
- Do you cover rental, new pumps, or both? Some hospital-grade pumps are only available by renting.
- How long will you cover a rental? Some moms only need a pump to establish nursing, while others need a long-term setup.
- Do you cover manual or electric pumps, or both? Manual pumps tend to be lighter and can be used anywhere. Electric models are often more effective, so they can be better for mothers who need to do more than occasional pumping.
- What dollar amount will you cover? Prices vary, so you need to know the coverage budget. High-tech pumps with a lot of features can cost several hundred dollars.
- Do I need to order through a medical supply company you work with, or can I buy a retail model and submit the receipt for reimbursement?
- Which medical supply companies do you work with?
- Which brands/models of breast pump do you cover?
- Are additional equipment parts covered? To pump, you’ll also need flanges, tubing, bottles, and other storage supplies.
- What documents do you need from me to prove my eligibility? Some insurance providers want to see a prescription from your doctor, while others only need to see that you’re receiving maternity care.
- When can I get the pump? You might be able to place your order as soon as you know your due date. In other cases, the insurance company might want you to wait until 30 days before the due date, or even ask you to call when you’re discharged from the hospital.
Step 3: Research Pump Options
If you’re covered for a breast pump, the next step is picking the right model for you. Different pumps have their perks and drawbacks, so look around and consider the factors that are most important for you:
- Noise: Will a louder motor be an issue on conference calls, or is a little whooshing okay?
- Suction: Some moms may find they need more powerful suction, or higher number of sucks per minute, to collect the milk supply they need. Occasional pumpers may not mind as much about maximum efficiency.
- Portability: How much does the pump weigh? Will you need to be near an outlet? How long do the batteries last, if the pump has them?
- Hands-free: Manual pumps, in almost all cases, require you to hold on and do the work yourself. Moms who plan to check emails while pumping will need an electric or battery-powered model.
Ameda has several models available through insurance. Our Finesse Breast Pump has the ONLY FDA-cleared barrier protection to keep harmful germs away from your milk, hospital waveform technology, and tons of customizable settings so you can find the best speed and suction fit for you.
Step 4: Purchase Your Pump
Depending on your area and insurance plan, you may purchase your pump one of a few ways.
One way to get a breast pump is to order it online. The major medical supply companies most insurance plans work with have online forms you can fill out. Then, they’ll ship the pump right to your door. Byram Healthcare estimates delivery takes 4-7 days, while Edgepark lists 8-12 days to process insurance and ship the pump. You can call other medical supply companies to ask about processing and shipment time, too.
If you have a brick-and-mortar medical supply store nearby, you may be able to walk in, check out models in person, and leave with a breast pump the same day. The same goes for people whose health insurance will reimburse a pump they buy at any retailer. If you’re on bed rest or don’t have a store close by that offers the pump you want, in-person shopping might not work for you, but for many moms-to-be, going to a physical store can be a quick way to get your pump.
In a pinch, if you need a pump and insurance won’t ship one until after the baby is born, ask at the hospital or call a lactation consultant about renting a pump on a weekly basis.
Figuring out insurance is never fun, but getting a free breast pump is worth the trouble! Use this simplified guide, or share it with an expecting mama in your life to make preparing for a new baby that much easier.
Ameda strives to present you with accurate and useful breastfeeding information. This article may contain information and ideas that are not necessarily the views of Ameda. It does not constitute medical advice. If you have any questions please contact your healthcare professional.