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Sen. Claire McCaskill Headshot

Extending Breastfeeding Services to Our Military Moms and Spouses

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When I was a single, working mom with a newborn, I learned just how vital it is to have comprehensive, affordable health care. Being a new mother was a joyful, and sometimes overwhelming experience -- and as the first Missouri female state legislator to have a baby while in office, having heath care for myself and my son gave me some needed peace of mind.

Under the Affordable Care Act, new mothers get an array of protections and benefits, including maternity coverage, new preventive services, and expanded Medicaid access -- and I was especially proud to work to require insurance plans under the ACA to cover services vital to new mothers, which include access to breast pumps, as well as lactation support and counseling.

But unfortunately, TRICARE, the health insurance provided to members of the military and their families, does not cover some of these same critical services. While TRICARE is not subject to the requirements established by the health care law, new mothers in the military and military spouses -- all of whom make immense sacrifices in service to this country -- deserve the same kind of access to resources and care as civilian mothers whose healthcare plans are subject to the ACA's coverage requirements.

Under TRICARE, a new mother can receive a breast pump under her health coverage only if her baby is premature and meets other strict criteria. Even if that criteria is met, the coverage often only extends to a breast pump in the hospital, and requires a physician to prove medical necessity for home use.

TRICARE does not cover pumps in any other circumstance, and it doesn't cover counseling or lactation services, requiring members of the military and spouses to pay the full costs such services out of pocket.

These shortcoming in coverage have driven me to introduce legislation to require TRICARE to cover breastfeeding equipment such as breast pumps, along with support and counseling, as required of other plans under the ACA.

I'm especially pleased that the National Military Families Association endorsed this bill. As an organization dedicated to ensuring military families have access to the highest quality care and that military health insurance coverage is world class -- like our military servicemembers and families -- they understand that military spouses and moms should have coverage of breastfeeding support as part of their insurance just like women outside the military.

It's my hope that this bill will earn broad support, and bring TRICARE services for military mothers and military spouses to the high standard we've achieved in the civilian sector under the health care law. This is commonsense legislation and I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will help it see swift action.

Our military mothers and spouses have earned it.