National Breastfeeding Center has released a scorecard of healthcare insurance companies based on coverage policies for breastfeeding support.
Anthem and Aetna both score highly out of 100 healthcare insurance companies graded by the National Breastfeeding Center (NBfC). Research was conducted to see how the insurance industry is responding to the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (PPACA), specifically the part of the law concerning coverage of breastfeeding support, a provision which went into effect on August 1, 2012.
“It has been a year since the mandate went into effect,” says Susanne Madden, COO, of the National Breastfeeding Center, “so there has been plenty of time for insurers to adjust to the law. We wanted to see how insurance companies are performing when it comes to supporting nursing mothers and their babies.” Madden says that the NBfC research uncovered a wide range of insurance company policies and compliance. “We were encouraged to find that some insurers really recognize the importance of improving breastfeeding and support the intent of the mandate by covering fully qualified lactation care providers and effective breastfeeding equipment. But many more provide only the bare minimum required by law, such as a manual hand-operated breastpump and advice given during a well care exam by providers that may have little lactation care experience.”
“We weren’t surprised to see Aetna near the top of the score card,” says Beverly Curtis, the Executive Director of NBfC. Aetna was quick to open its network to lactation care providers who have certification as International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (a designation awarded by an independently-accredited program). Curtis points out, “it is important that insurance companies support care delivered by independently certified professionals as these are the providers best qualified to address and improve lactation care.”
Madden said that the Anthem Group of companies came to the top of the list due to such provisions as covering home visits and allowing pumps to be dispensed from both providers and medical supply companies. “Companies should see our score card as a helpful tool for evaluating their breastfeeding support policies,” Curtis says, “and like Aetna and Anthem, aspire to be the best in this critical area of mother and infant healthcare insurance coverage.”
NBfC assessed commercial insurance companies’ published policies and guidelines and assigned a grade based on the adequacy of coverage provided. Using The Verden Group’s Policy Search tool to locate official Medical Policies and Google to search insurers’ member and public domains for guidelines and newsletters that contained information about each company’s breastfeeding coverage, “we believe we’ve conducted a comprehensive review of the information available,” says Madden.
Why grade insurance companies on their breastfeeding support policies at all? “The purpose of the mandate is to improve breastfeeding initiation and duration rates,” Curtis replies. “It follows that mothers should receive lactation counseling support from a provider educated in lactation care.” Madden agrees and says “It’s the best way to insure that the care provided is appropriate to each mother’s concern or issue and that each has access to breast pumps that perform appropriately according to her medical or societal needs. Insurers are now tasked with making sure that happens, and that healthcare dollars are spent more wisely and invested in preventive care. To do less than their best for their littlest members is simply not good enough. We want to bring attention to that,” Madden concludes, “and prompt insurers to do even better going forward.”
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