Will Breast Pumps Be Covered Under Trumpcare? The ACA Encourages Breastfeeding

Nursing parents — and the federal government — know that breast pumps are expensive. That's why pumping devices were included in the coverage provisions of President Barack Obama's landmark Affordable Care Act. But Republicans in Congress are closer to repealing the historic healthcare law, which no doubt puts access to necessary items like breast pumps at risk. Of course, President-elect Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other conservative lawmakers talk of a replacement, but what that replacement looks like is not exactly clear. Nor is whether or not breast pumps will be covered under "Trumpcare."

Under the ACA, health insurance companies are required to provide new chest-feeding parents with pumping devices without any cost-sharing. The breast pumps they provide can be manual or electric, rented or new — those details are all determined by different policies. But chest-feeding parents must receive them at least after birth. If, under his plan, Trump only changes certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act (disparagingly known as "Obamacare") then there is a chance plans will still cover breast pumps, all or in part. But if he chooses to scrap Obama's healthcare reform legislation entirely, then the situation becomes dire for new nursing parents. The Affordable Care Act was the first plan to mandate this kind of coverage for parents, so it would make sense if Republicans got rid of the legislation.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, pregnancy was considered a pre-existing condition. Pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care was far more difficult to access because costs kept those services financially out of reach for so many new parents. Not only that, insurance companies were allowed to deny coverage to pregnant people in the first place, which made it doubly difficult for parents to obtain healthcare if they didn't have Medicaid. As noted in Slate last month, the ACA made it possible for chest-feeding parents to have the support and supplies needed to nurse, which the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends they do exclusively for the first six months of an infant's life. Without the ACA, chest-feeding parents may have to instead get a prescription from their doctor in order for their insurance carrier to even consider covering the device. Others may give up on nursing entirely because of the costs.

Losing breast pump coverage isn't the only way Trumpcare may threaten the healthcare of nursing parents. Without the ACA, new parents may lose access to essential well-baby visits and cancer screenings, may no longer afford birth control to plan their future family or treat reproductive conditions, and may be forced to sit on dirty toilets to pump while at work. To that last point, a petition has been posted to Change.org recently that calls on Ryan and the rest of Congress to keep the break time provision under Section 4207 of the ACA. So far, more than 1,780 people have signed the petition.