A Shortage of Breast Pumps

Insurance company, vendors scrambling to keep up with demand for breast pumps with new health care law.


A new health care law has unwittingly caused a nationwide shortage of breast pumps, the Washington Post reports.

The law's provision requires patients to get insurance-covered breast pumps through specific vendors, according to the article. However, insurers' contracted medical suppliers were not prepared for the wave of breast pump requests and some are now simply out of stock, the report says.

Last year, women were excited to learn that the U.S. would require insurance companies to pay 100 percent of the cost of a breast pump and lactation consultations. The specific lactation support clause went into effect in August 2012, but most people had to wait for their insurance plans to reset with the new year for the benefit to kick in.

Women quoted in the article say that they're not getting any clear answers from their insurers or their vendors about when they'll have more pumps available. Many vendors have stopped taking orders until they restock. Most of the companies have alerts on their websites or recordings on their phones advising patients that they're working with manufacturers to fill orders as soon as possible.

"The health care law's requirement does not specify whether insurance companies must cover certain brands or types of breast pumps. It directs health plans to pay for 'the costs of renting breastfeeding equipment' in conjunction with each birth," according to the Washington Post report.

If you're facing a shortage, you have a few options: You can wait for your insurance company to restock breast pumps; you can buy your own; or you can rent one. Your hospital may have breast pump rentals, or it can refer you to a local rental facility. You can also search for rental locations on Ameda and Medela's websites. Remember, moms-to-be, that rental breast pumps "tend to be larger and more durable than those sold commercially, which are not intended for long-term use," the article says.

If you would like to take advantage of the new law, contact your insurance company for more information and a list of approved breast pump vendors. Each company may have different coverage, so ask for as much information as possible. For example, the article notes that UnitedHealthcare covers rentals and purchases. Blue Shield of California will cover only equipment rentals.

On a different note, the article also notes that insurance companies have reached out to lactation consultants in hopes that they will join their networks in an effort to comply with the part of the law that covers lactation support and counseling.

Before buying a breast pump, browse through our Buyer's Guide top nursing picks first for a look at the essentials you'll need for breastfeeding success.