Concerns Raised As Anthem Insurance Cuts Breast Pump Reimbursement 44%

Anthem health insurance, which operates as Blue Cross Blue Shield in many states and covers over 40 million people, cut the reimbursement rate for breast pumps by 44% last month, sparking protests and concerns that cost-cutting is coming at the expense of infant health. The unprecedented cut in breast pump reimbursement, from $169 to just $95 will impact the quality of pump moms can receive and the company has already announced plans in Indiana to limit breast pump access to Medicaid customers even further.

The cut hits black families particularly hard because Anthem operates in 15 states, many of which, have some of the lowest breastfeeding rates. For example, in Kentucky, the black breastfeeding rate is 2.2% at six months, compared to 16.6% for white infants. In Ohio, another key Anthem state, the rate is 8.5% for black infants compared to 19.3% for whites.

In Indiana, where Anthem is headquartered, the company changed it policy even more drastically, currently only offering only one breast pump model to Medicaid moms. As of May 22, mothers enrolled in Hoosier Healthwise, Healthy Indiana Plan and Hoosier Care Connect will only have access to one pump—a model that does not even have a portable power supply.

“Having only pump option when all women are not the same, all breasts are not the same and all pumps are not the same is essentially a death knell for continued breastfeeding, said Ryan Karim, RN, IBCLC and president of the Indiana Black Breastfeeding Coalition. In 2015, 19% of people in Indiana were covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).