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Bill would require Tricare to cover breast-feeding expenses

Feb. 5, 2014 - 08:58PM   |  
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Tricare would cover the cost of breast-feeding equipment, support and counseling for new moms who want to nurse their babies under a bill introduced by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover the full cost of renting or providing pumps as well as lactation counseling and support. But Tricare pays only for efficient, hospital-quality breast pumps for use in medical facilities and under some conditions for premature infants.

“As someone who was a single, working mother, I know firsthand the importance of comprehensive, affordable health care when caring for a new child,” McCaskill said in a statement. “New mothers in the military and military spouses deserve access to the services consistent with coverage available in the private sector.”

McCaskill said she plans to move quickly to secure bill co-sponsors and reach out to Democratic and Republican lawmakers for support.

Her bill, S 1994, drew quick praise from the National Military Family Association, an advocacy group representing military dependents, retirees and families.

“Ensuring that military health care benefits are on par with civilian coverage is one of our top priorities,” NMFA officials said.

As the military’s health program, Tricare was not pulled into the legislative orbit of the Affordable Care Act, an omission that for the most part has shielded military beneficiaries from some of the negative consequences of the law, including dropped insurance and rate hikes.

But several disparities, including breast-feeding supply coverage, exist.

At least one difference between Tricare and the ACA was rectified shortly after the law was signed, when Congress approved health care coverage for unmarried children of military personnel and retirees up to age 26, as also required by the ACA, under a new option called Tricare Young Adult.

But even that change has met with opposition from some military sponsors who object to the fact that TYA, available to beneficiaries ages 21 to 26, requires enrollment and payment of monthly premiums.

Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., introduced a bill Jan. 30 that would allow dependent youths to stay on ordinary Tricare Prime or Standard, like their parents, until age 26, instead of requiring them to enroll in TYA.

Graves proposes to pay for his bill by trimming foreign aid “like green energy programs in Africa or climate change initiatives in Asia.”

His proposed bill, HR 3974, has been referred to the House Armed Services Committee. Graves has yet to attract any co-sponsors.

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