Tricare officials say they don't expect to issue a new policy dictating what breastfeeding support and supplies they will cover, including breast pumps, until sometime this summer.
A law approving 2015 funding for the Defense Department ordered Tricare to extend breastfeeding supplies and support to both female service members and dependents, including spouses, starting December 19, 2014 -- when the bill was signed into law by President Obama.
But before officially providing new coverage Tricare must write and approve a new policy -- a process that can take many months. And that's where they are right now ... writing a policy. The law itself only specifies that support and supplies must be covered -- not what kind. That means Tricare could opt to cover only manual breast pumps.
In the meantime the answer women get on what is covered depends on who at Tricare they talk to. Women have told me that when they call Tricare's regional contractors for information about this issue they are simply told that Tricare only covers hospital grade pumps for premature infants if a physician can prove medical necessity. That, however, is Tricare's pre-2015 policy and is incorrect.
Women who ask about the issue on Tricare's Facebook page are given a completely different answer. They are told they can purchase a pump themselves and hope the insurer will cover it retroactively, assuming they have a prescription and buy it from an authorized provider.
"Tricare beneficiaries should save their receipts for breast pumps, and breastfeeding supplies and services. Coverage for these may be retroactive to Dec. 19, 2014, when the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act became law," Tricare officials write.
How do you find an authorized provider? No one knows, because they won't outline who those are until the new policy is issued.
"Services and supplies must be purchased from a Tricare authorized provider (the types of providers will be outlined in the Tricare Policy Manual)," they write.
Fantastic. You MIGHT be able to get a pump reimbursed IF you buy it from an authorized provider but you can't have any hints about who those might be or how to find one.
Officials told us the new policy is expected to be issued this summer. As soon as it is out we will let you know.
Photo courtesy U.S. Army/Devon Fisher