Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, on Thursday applauded the passage of her amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (House Resolution 4435) that would make breastfeeding supplies and counseling available to military family members covered under the federal TRICARE insurance program.
The amendment will bring parity to these families, as these services are already a required benefit in private health insurance plans thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Capps led the charge to include this provision for all mothers in the ACA.
The amendment is based on the TRICARE Moms Improvement Act, a bill introduced by Capps in April.
TRICARE is the health care program for active and retired service members and their families. While most private health insurance under the ACA must make breastfeeding support, supplies (including breast pumps and associated equipment), and counseling available during pregnancy and the postpartum period, TRICARE was not included in that requirement. This bill would end this discrepancy.
“This common-sense amendment will ensure that our military moms can access the supports they need to provide their babies with a healthy start at life,” Capps said. “While civilian families now have access to breastfeeding support if they need it, our military families were left out. This is not fair. Military families access to the same services that are available to those who have private insurance, and this bill will ensure that this is the case.”
A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
Most pregnant women in the United States intend to breastfeed their infants and initiate breastfeeding at birth, but the majority of these women stop breastfeeding while their child is still an infant. The National Immunization Survey of 2009 found that 76 percent of new mothers began breastfeeding, with 47 percent continuing to breastfeed at six months, and only 26 percent breastfeeding at 12 months. The Institute of Medicine has identified that gaps in skilled support and instruction in breastfeeding and limited breastfeeding supports for women returning to work, including access to breast pumps, are critical factors influencing whether a new mother initiates breastfeeding and the duration of breastfeeding.
The amendment is supported by nearly 40 organizations, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the National Women’s Law Center, the American Academy of Nursing, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of University Women, the American Nurses Association, the Business and Professional Women's Foundation, the California WIC Association, the March of Dimes, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the National Partnership for Women & Families, the National WIC Association, and the Service Women's Action Network.
Capps also submitted two other amendments for consideration, one to set up a process to help Veterans whose service records were destroyed in a fire at a Department of Defense facility received the benefits they earned, and another to protect ROTC programs, like the one at UCSB, from closures, but the House Rules Committee declined Tuesday night to advance those amendments to the floor.
— Chris Meagher is the press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.