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Big change coming in insurance benefits to thousands of new moms

The largest health insurance company in Alabama is slashing reimbursement rates for an item many new moms depend on to care for their babies.

Starting November 1st, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama will reduce breast pump coverage from $228 to $98.

The Alabama Breastfeeding Committee, made up of health care professionals across the state, issued a proclamation, asking BCBS of Alabama to reconsider.

According to committee members, the 55% cut in coverage will result in the lowest reimbursement rate of any private insurer in the country.

Breastfeeding advocates and lactation consultants point to the importance of a high-quality, efficient breast pump, especially for mothers who return to work.

Glenni Lorrick, a lactation consultant in Huntsville, says these types of pumps are often more expensive but it's a difference that leads to improved health for mother and baby.

Lorrick adds mothers who must pump daily and have access to a high-quality pump are less likely to suffer from plugged ducts and mastitis, a painful infection that leads to missed time at work.

She points out that babies whose mothers are able to continue providing breast milk are less likely to suffer from ear infections, diarrhea and a variety of other health complaints.

Other studies have shown breastfeeding lowers an infant's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by 70%.

In asking BCBS of Alabama Medical Director Dr. Daniel Weaver to reconsider, the chairman of the Alabama Breastfeeding Committee, Dr. Joshua Johannson, wrote:

"The pending 55% cut will limit access, increase long-term costs for medical care, and almost certainly cement Alabama at the very bottom of many vital national health statistics. A lot of work is underway in Alabama to develop resources and partnerships that lead to the effective promotion, protection, and support of breastfeeding within the State. It would serve patients and your company well to reduce the cut and bring Alabama in line with the national average. Employers and patients across the State will benefit if Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama becomes a partner in providing the benefits of breast feeding to the Alabama children and families of tomorrow."

When we contacted Dr. Weaver for comment, the company provided the following statement:

"Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is committed to providing our members access to quality, affordable healthcare. We recently lowered our payment for breast pumps primarily due to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide coverage of breast pumps for our members and to bring our payment for breast pumps more in line with current market prices."