Senators considered a bill that would ensure services provided by certified lactation consultants are covered under Washington’s Medicaid program on Tuesday.
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Members of the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee discussed Senate Bill 5470 during a public hearing. SB 5470 would create a voluntary certification process for lactation consultants, which would begin on Jan. 1st, 2024. It would direct the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) to ensure the services of certified lactation consultants are covered under the state Medicaid program by Jan. 1st, 2025.
Bill sponsor Sen. Yasmin Trudeau (D-Tacoma) said she drafted the legislation because a constituent who is a lactation specialist told her she wasn’t able to serve Medicaid patients.
“The issue of breastfeeding for folks can be a really painful and lonely one,” Trudeau said. “Society puts a lot of pressure on us when we’re new moms. The truth is, the opportunity to be able to breastfeed is really vital to the health and well-being of both the mother and the baby.”
Emily Ager is an international board-certified lactation consultant who runs a private practice in Tacoma. She said the majority of patients she works with are enrolled in commercial or employer health plans that cover her services. But she frequently receives inquiries from families on Medicaid seeking lactation support.
“Oftentimes these moms have already been connected with (the Women, Infants, and Children program) and may have seen lactation specialists in the hospital, but are in need of a higher level of clinical lactation care to help manage a complicated breastfeeding situation, or have not found the help they need in other settings,” Ager said.
Paying out of pocket is rarely an option for these families, even with sliding scale discounts and payment plans available, Ager said.
“Because lactation consultants are currently an unlicensed profession in Washington, I am unable to receive reimbursement from Medicaid and Apple Health plans,” Ager said. “And I am not able to provide services to these families.”
No action was taken on the bill as it will be considered during future hearings.