Statement from Medela US Managing Director, Melissa Gonzales
April 17, 2018 – Medela operates on the strong belief that mothers’ milk is best for babies. Every month we answer thousands of customer service and support calls directly from mothers who seek advice on breastfeeding and pumping. Medela is dedicated to assembling in America the highest quality products with patented pumping technology and components that moms need, deserve and expect today. We are committed fully to delivering evidenced-based clinical and consumer education together with research-based products so that babies may receive mothers’ milk for as long as possible.
Anthem’s decision to cut reimbursement for double electric breast pumps by 45% down to $95 is aggressive and short-sighted. The decision to offer only the very lowest rates for double electric breast pumps combined with a complete absence of medical policy that outlines minimum requirements for quality will undoubtedly eliminate meaningful support for nursing mothers and babies. Local and regional Durable Medical Equipment (DME) providers, as well as lactation counselors themselves, will no longer be able to serve mothers across America who are covered by Anthem health insurance and affiliated Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield plans. We believe this decision is based on imperfect information regarding the ability of DMEs or manufacturers to supply quality pumps over the long term. Such a drastic cut will hinder innovation, customer service, reinvestment into research, education and support of moms’ journey and babies’ health.
For Medela and other quality manufacturers, our business model is not dependent merely on a margin sold on breast pumps, but rather on our entire mission statement, which drives us to reinvest in the clinical community, medical research, consumer education and other noncommercial endeavors. At the same time, we use evidence to strive for continuous product and service innovation and improvements, and other benefits for moms and babies. Regardless of whether or not Anthem or any other insurance provider has at this moment negotiated with a limited number of DMEs to service their near-term contracts at this unsustainable rate, we believe that the long term effects of this drastic cut will negatively impact babies and moms as quality will eventually be squeezed out of the insurance-covered breast pump market. This will only serve to undermine the potential for cost-savings and improvements in health outcomes for moms and babies that Anthem and other insurance providers claim to support.
Instead of moving forward with the planned cut, Anthem should consider the plethora of evidence in the peer reviewed literature underscoring not just the benefits of breastfeeding, but also the key elements of quality in breast pumping technology and lactation support services. It is our position that all insurance providers should look for new ways to increase, not decrease, investment in comprehensive lactation and support services (including counseling, education and breastfeeding equipment and supplies) and fully recognize the importance of investing early in the lives of moms and their babies.