A change in law enacted in December requires Tricare to pay for costs related to breast-feeding but new mothers may have to wait some time to receive the benefit.
Under a provision of the 2015 Defense Authorization Act, Tricare will cover the cost of lactation support, supplies and counseling, but the Defense Health Agency must first develop a policy addressing the details of Tricare coverage, spokesman Kevin Dwyer said Tuesday.
And "until the policy ... is approved, these services and supplies are still not covered," he said.
The legislation, signed by President Obama Dec. 19, is designed to address a discrepancy between coverage for breast-feeding expenses in the Affordable Care Act and those of Tricare, which currently pays only for hospital-quality breast pumps for use in medical facilities and under certain conditions for premature infants.
The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover the full cost of renting or providing pumps as well as lactation counseling and support.
Dwyer recommended that new parents save receipts for services and supplies in case the new policy allows for reimbursement.
Roughly 100,000 babies are born to Tricare-eligible families each year, according to the Defense Department. An estimated 79 percent of newborns in the U.S. in 2011 initially were breast-fed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although that number declined to 49 percent by 6 months of age.
Cary Seely, vice president for provider relations at Pumping Essentials, a nursing supply company, said their business has received calls from Tricare beneficiaries asking about coverage and the new law.
"Hopefully, Tricare's reimbursement rates will align [with the costs of efficient pumps]," Seely said. "It's one thing to cover breast pumps and supplies, and another to provide for a quality product to prolong and increase breast-feeding rates, which is the point of the ACA."