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How to Score a Breast Pump for FREE

When I was pregnant, someone told me to check with my insurance company to see if it provided breast pumps. I was skeptical, and I figured I’d just have to shell out the $200-$300 needed for a quality pump. However, I did some research on the Affordable Care Act and realized that it was quite possible to get a free pump.  The process was kind of annoying, but it was definitely worth the trouble, because in the end,  I did not pay a single penny for my breast pump.

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I started out by calling my insurance company. The first thing they told me was that I had to wait until January 1, 2013. This wasn’t a huge deal to me, because Porter was due on Christmas Eve (born on December 28th) and I knew that most likely I wouldn’t need the pump right away. The second thing I was told was that I COULD get a breast pump for free, but they would only provide a manual pump, which would not really be worth the trouble of getting (in my opinion). Sure, free is free, but I doubted a manual pump was going to cut it. I knew I was going to need a high powered electric (double) pump when I returned to work. I asked the woman on the phone a few more questions and she said it was up to my employer and what specific insurance plan my employer selected. Some policies agreed to provide manual pumps and some agreed to provide electric pumps. I was bummed and thought I was out of luck.

However, I did not give up. The woman I talked to did not seem entirely confident in the answer she gave me, so I doubted whether or not I should accept her answer. I waited a few days and then called again, in hopes of speaking to a different person.  The second woman I spoke with looked up my policy and then told me there was no way for me to to know prior to January 1 if I would get a pump or not. Basically–according to her– it was up to my employer and it would depend on what insurance policy they chose to renew at the start of the calendar year. She said I could call back after January 1 to inquire. I was a bit annoyed. I knew that when January 1 arrived that I would have others things—um, like a baby–to worry about.

I almost decided to forget about the whole thing, but I contacted the woman in charge of our benefits for my school district. I told her about the two previous encounters I had and I asked her if she had any contact people at the insurance company who could give her a firm answer.  She said she’d look into it and get back to me.

She emailed me the next day and told me that yes, I could get a breast pump, and not just any breast pump, but a double electric pump. I would have to wait until after January 1, though, and I also needed to get the pump from a medical supplier (in my insurance network). She also instructed me to get a prescription for the breast pump from my OBGYN.  The prescription would serve as proof that I really needed it. I did some homework and called all the medical suppliers in my area and found one that carried the type of pump I wanted (most of the medical suppliers didn’t even have ANY breast pumps, let alone the type I was interested in.)

Porter was born, and a few days later I managed to shower and put yoga pants on and went to the medical supplier with my prescription in hand. I imagined I’d walk out of there with a brand new breast pump, but it seems I had more hoop to jump through.  When my doctor wrote the prescription, it was before Porter was born. The prescription literally said “Patient is pregnant. May require breast pump.” I gave the medical supplier my prescription.

The woman said, “Oh, you’re still pregnant? You’re pregnant now?”

Despite the fact that my belly did still look a little pregnant-like, I couldn’t help but to feel a little offended. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn my MATERNITY yoga pants, I thought to myself. I looked down at Porter in his car seat and looked back at the woman. “No, I’m not pregnant now. I already had the baby.”

“But it says ‘patient is pregnant.’ ”

“Well, she wrote it when I WAS pregnant.” I thought this was obvious.

I didn’t understand why this was such a big deal, but I could tell this was going to be a problem.  She called someone (I think it was someone from the claim department of my insurance company) and then told me that she couldn’t give me the breast pump because of the way the prescription was written.  She then said she would call my OBGYN and verify my need for the breast pump even though I wasn’t still pregnant. I thought having the baby right there with me was proof enough, but I guess not. Maybe she thought I borrowed someone else’s baby in order to snag a breast pump, but why someone would want a breast pump unless she really needed one is beyond me. She sent me on my way and said she would call me when she knew something. Again, I was a little annoyed.

The next day she called me back and said that my OBGYN verified the prescription. She then had to make another call back to the claim department, but she finally told me that I could come back in to pick up the breast pump.  The following day I returned to the medical supplier and picked up my breast pump. I was pumped (no pun intended) to have finally figured all this out, and I guess my persistence paid off.

The pump I received is a double electric pump. It has plenty of power, gets the job done, and  is almost identical to the Medela Pump In Style, except the bag that I have isn’t quite as fancy as the Pump In Style. [By the way, why is it called the “Pump In Style”? I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to pump one’s boobs stylishly.]

So, long story short, if you’re pregnant and you plan on using a breast pump, check with your insurance before purchasing one. While my experience was a tad tedious and cumbersome, a friend of mine (whom I work with, so she has the same insurance) had absolutely zero problems when she went through the process a few months after I did.

On a similar note, if you don’t have insurance or if your insurance doesn’t provide a pump, I personally do not think there is a problem with borrowing a pump from a friend or family member. I know this isn’t recommended and supposedly it voids the warranty, but if you purchase separate parts for the pump and do not use the original parts, I don’t see why this would be a problem. Obviously this is a personal decision, but I thought I’d throw my two cents in there.