5 On Your Side

Breast pumps plentiful in stores, yet hard to get for expectant moms

Posted January 17, 2013

New mothers are finding it hard to get breast pumps because vendors are running short on supplies.

Katie Moore and her husband are expecting their first child – a boy - in May.

She plans to nurse and was excited to learn that new heath care laws require insurance companies to pay 100 percent of the cost of a breast pump.

“They're expensive,” Moore said. It costs $200 to $300 “for a good one."

Moore’s health insurance provider is Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, Like most insurance companies, BCBSNC requires subscribers to get the pump through specific vendors.

Moore says as soon as she started making calls, the runaround began. The two local vendors listed on the insurer’s website aren't taking orders.

Edgepark Medical Supplies has this recording: “Due to a nationwide shortage of breast pumps, we are unable to take any further breast pump orders at this time."

Moore has since spent hours online and on the phone.

"I'm just having to call Blue Cross and the other people back and forth and back and forth," she said.

Recent online posts show plenty of other expectant moms share Moore's frustrations.

Breast pumps plentiful in stores, yet hard to get for expectant moms Breast pumps plentiful in stores, yet hard to get for expectant moms

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina spokesman Lew Borman looked into the issue after we called and told 5 On Your Side that "orders jumped ten-fold since January 1.” That’s when many health plans rolled over.

The rush of orders is an "unanticipated consequence of a new benefit," he said. The company then added an alert to its website, saying they are working with manufacturers to fill orders and will keep customers advised.

Breast pump manufacturers said they were caught off guard. Stores are stocked with breast pumps, but insurers require new moms to go through their contracted medical suppliers.

"I've been given no date as to when they may come available,” Moore said. "And that was my main concern, because I do have a due date pending."

With her son due in May, Moore has some time. But she and other expectant moms are frustrated by the lack of information.

"I'm not mad,” she said. “I just would like answers."

35 Comments

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  • aconsmith Jan 25, 1:56 p.m.

    As a board certified lactation consultant in private practice in Raleigh, this has been a frustrating development for customers and for me. I have over 60 medical grade breast pumps available for rent and many personal use breast pumps for sale at reasonable prices. I know how to help a mom choose the most appropriate pump (if one is needed) and to make sure it is fitting her properly and comfortably. This new situation created by the ignorance of either government or insurance companies, forcing moms to go to Durable Medical Equipment suppliers for a breast pump is causing chaos and confusion, not to mention frustration. Patients are customers of insurance companies and they need to be the ones to pressure the insurers to facilitate getting a breast pump from an expert knowledgeable about what is best for mom and baby, not from someone who sells hospital beds and walkers! Perhaps, we need a followup story on this issue. Ann Conlon-Smith, Triangle Lactation Consultants

  • RU4Real Jan 22, 5:19 p.m.

    Morrigan-- apparently you are a man or either know nothing about babies nor breast feeding Moms. I breast fed my baby for 1 year. I "pumped" the milk exclusively and put it in a bottle and fed her. Although you "breast feed", you don't have to feed directly from the breast. The use of a pump saves time as well as other being able to help with feeding the baby since the breast milk is stored in a bottle. It made no difference whether I was at home or not. Great idea that they are now covered by insurance! Breast milk is healthier and promotes antibodies in the baby's system-- building immunities, thus theoretically decreasing the odd of getting ill, thus decreasing medical costs.

    People shouldn't speak on what they know nothing about

  • beef Jan 22, 4:22 p.m.

    People who buy insurance to cover something that cost $200 deserve the hassel they. Stuff like this should not be covered by insurance. Insurance is for calamities. $200 is not a calamity. If you cannot afford that, then you have no business having a baby. What's next? Insurance coverage for asprin? Toothpaste? Soap?

  • Terkel Jan 22, 4:03 p.m.

    katie, I wouldn't let my teeth rot out while I fought the insurance company, but that's what these women are doing.

    Scuba, I didn't know flex spending accounts were still allowed under the 0bamacare mandate. Look for them to be outlawed soon because as you pointed out, they allow consumers the freedom to spend their health care dollars as they see fit.

  • eitakydennek1987 Jan 21, 3:36 p.m.

    Entitlement? Yes when they pay for the services.

  • eitakydennek1987 Jan 21, 3:18 p.m.

    Scubagirl try reading the article. It's covered in her plan. No need for flex spending!!

  • eitakydennek1987 Jan 21, 3:16 p.m.

    morrigan why would you fight the insurance company when they are agreeing to pay 100%? If she goes to get the pump at target its not covered.

    covered at 100% or go to target where its not covered...

    Its a no brainer. It's like going to the dentist for a cleaning once a year that's covered and after the visit you pay.. Instead of taking advantage of what you paid for in insurance premiums.

  • georgegray Jan 21, 2:40 p.m.

    Wait ... I have to pay a $15 copay for $6 worth of antibiotics when I have pneumonia - which could kill me, but breast pumps are mandated to be totally free? Come on. At least make them pay a copay so that only people who are really planning to use it will get one. That's basic economics.

  • Terkel Jan 21, 2:01 p.m.

    I say “how dare you question the needs of new Moms seeking to provide the best food available for infants.”

    And there you have it. The tyrannical face of Entitlement.

  • NiceNSmooth Jan 21, 12:47 p.m.

    I cannot believe we are paying for breast pumps. What next?

    WE? who is WE? you have the same ins. as the woman in the story?

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