McCaskill bill would require military health plan to cover breast pumps

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) this week introduced a bill that would require the military’s health insurance program to cover breastfeeding equipment and counseling, just as the Affordable Care Act mandates for most insurance plans.

Under the health law, widely known as Obamacare, insurance companies must cover breast-pump rental or give the equipment to new mothers, in addition to providing lactation counseling and support. But the military’s coverage, TRICARE, leaves armed-forces personnel and their spouses to pay the full costs for those services out of pocket unless their children are born prematurely and meet other criteria.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), left, discusses military sexual assaults. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), left, discusses military sexual assaults. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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

TRICARE is not subject to the Affordable Care Act’s mandates affecting private insurance. As a result, the law’s provisions on breastfeeding services do not extend to the military program.

The National Military Family Association has backed McCaskill’s bill, which the senator introduced on Tuesday.

“One of our association’s top priorities is ensuring that military families, who have sacrificed greatly in support of our nation, have access to high quality health care benefits on par with civilian coverage,” the group said in a statement. “We thank Senator McCaskill for her efforts to bring TRICARE in line with Affordable Care Act coverage requirements for breastfeeding support.”

TRICARE also does not cover corrective contact lenses and eyeglasses for the children and spouses of military personnel, except for limited conditions such as infantile glaucoma and misshapen corneas. The plan does include routine eye exams for kids and adults.

The health law mandates coverage of pediatric vision care for private insurance. Comprehensive eye exams and corrective lenses must be included with individual and small-group plans such as those sold on the federal health-insurance exchanges, according to guidance from the American Academy of Opthamology.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks@washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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