How Repeal of the Affordable Care Act Would Harm Breastfeeding Moms

President Trump and the Republican Congress are working hard to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  This would obviously be a detrimental blow to the millions of Americans who were finally able to obtain insurance coverage under Obamacare, but it would also be a blow to the many wonderful protections that Obamacare provides to breastfeeding mothers.  Those protections generally include:

1) Break Time and Access to Lactation Room.  Obamacare amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require that employers with more than 50 employees provide a “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk”  and also provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” See 29 U.S.C. 207(r).  The importance of employers providing breastfeeding employees with both the time and privacy to express breast milk cannot be overstated.  For more information regarding your rights as an employee with respect to breastfeeding, visit the Department of Labor’s website for nursing mothers or reference the Break Time for Nursing Mothers Employee Rights Card.

flsa-nursing-mother-employee-rights-card

2) Breast Pumps Covered by Insurer.  Under Obamacare, all Marketplace and other health insurance plans (with the exception of those grandfathered in) must cover the cost of either a rental breast pump or a new one for nursing mothers to keep.  Plans vary on the type of pump provided (manual or electric) and how long rentals are provided, but the mandate to provide a breast pump is vitally important to nursing mothers, particularly those that could not easily afford pumps, which can be rather expensive.

3) Lactation Support and Counseling.  The Affordable Care Act and accompanying laws require health plans to cover “comprehensive prenatal and postnatal lactation support and counseling.”  Ensuring  pregnant and postpartum mothers the ability to obtain professional lactation support and counseling is critically important to breastfeeding success, which is why I have dedicated my career to lactation support.

Breastfeeding comes with enough challenges.  The protections provided under Obamacare were a strong step in the right direction, providing the time, access, equipment, and support to help breastfeeding mothers meet these challenges.  These steps forward are all now in jeopardy.  I will be following the proposed changes to Obamacare closely and will do my best to keep this blog updated with developments.

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