How to Get a Free Breast Pump
5 tips and resources that can help you get a free breast pump from your insurer.
When my daughter was born, I was committed to breastfeeding. I breastfed exclusively for two months through a string of constantly cracked and bleeding nipples. The nipple shield was my best friend and I had the lactation consultant on speed dial. We talked about things like how much blood is too much blood for your infant and will breastfeeding ever not feel like someone is stabbing me with a knife?
When I went back to work, I introduced the bottle and my daughter gave up the boob completely. That began my relationship with my breast pump. Through those long lonely nights, I often thought my breast pump was saying, “Bob Hope. Bob Hoooope.” And I wondered if Bob Hope had been reincarnated as a breast pump and wouldn’t that just be the worst thing ever? Or maybe the best thing. Everyone saw me pumping, my mailman, my brother in law, and people who passed us on the highway as we road tripped to visit family. I pumped through work calls. I would call in on the conference line. Hit the mute button. Turn on the pump. Then, when I needed to talk, I would turn off the pump. Turn off the mute button. Talk. Mute again. It was a complicated dance.
Two years later, when I had my son and my doctor asked if I wanted a new pump, I said, “Hell to the yes!” I didn’t have to think about it. Even if you are breastfeeding, pumping is a great way to build up a supply of breast milk (should you want to do something crazy like, go grocery shopping without kids). It’s also a lifesaver for working moms. For me, it was my boon when my breastfeeding failed. And this time, while breastfeeding seems to be going well and I no longer work outside of the home, I still am loving my breast pump. I’ve got 150 ounces stashed in my freezer just waiting for me to go crazy and do something like run errands without the baby. Every time I see that freezer stash, I think, “Freedom! Breast pumps for everyone!” But the bad news is: The good breast pumps can run upwards of $300, which can be cost prohibitive.
Fortunately, the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in 2010, requires private insurance companies to cover the cost of breastfeeding support and supplies, like breast pumps. Companies began compliance with the law on August 1, 2012. If you have private insurance, odds are your insurer will cover all or most of the cost of a breast pump. But each insurer is different. My insurer covered 80% of the cost of a new pump, provided we had a prescription for the breast pump from my OB. We paid for the remaining 20% of the cost using our flexible spending account. We were also able to order the breast pump from the hospital, which made the process of acquiring the breast pump simple. The downside of that route was that we were limited to choosing the Medela or the Ameda. I went with the Ameda because it has a closed system (meaning: breast milk doesn’t get in the tubes) and I love it.
For other insurance companies, it’s not quite as straight forward. Fortunately, there are some resources out there that can help you wade through the slog of insurance information. Here are five resources and tips to help you get a free breast pump from your insurer.
1. Pumping Essentials is a private company owned by Joy Kosak and Debra Abbaszadeh, creators of the Simple Wishes hands-free pumping bra. The company helps you order your breast pump (from them) and file your insurance claims free of charge.
2. If you don’t have private insurance, you may qualify for help under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). To find out if WIC can help you cover some or part of the cost of a breast pump, you will have to contact your local WIC office.
3. And, Medela’s website has a lot of resources to help you learn more about coverage.
4. Getting a breast pump if you are in the military or a military spouse is a little more tricky. TRICARE is exempt from the Affordable Care Act and their website states, “TRICARE may cover electric hospital-grade breast pumps for premature infants who meet certain criteria. The breast pump may be covered for use in the hospital, and in certain cases, if the physician can prove medical necessity, for home use.” However, you may qualify for help under WIC. Or you may be able to work with your OB to write a prescription for a pump. Anecdotal evidence from friends who are military spouses and active duty say this approach has worked in the past and that TRICARE is changing their policy. I called to confirm for this story and the representative I spoke to said women (spouses and active duty) should call TRICARE to clear the details and work with their OB to get a prescription.
5. Some insurance companies are choosing to cover the cost of renting a hospital-grade pump, instead of covering commercial pumps. While the idea of using a used pump may have an ick-factor, don’t blanch just yet. They come with new parts and tubing and work very well.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN