June 20, 2014

Bill licensing lactation consultants headed to governor

STATE HOUSE – With passage in the House today, the General Assembly has approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi and Sen. Gayle L. Goldin to establish a licensing process for lactation consultants, thereby facilitating insurance coverage of their service to assist nursing mothers and infants.

Lactation consultants are health care professionals who assist mothers and infants with clinical issues relating to breastfeeding. Insurers provide varying degrees of coverage for lactation consultation, although in many cases, women have covered access for only a brief time after giving birth. Many families must pay out-of-pocket for their services, particularly if their need for those services occurs after the first few weeks of their infants’ life.

The work of lactation consultant services can be covered under insurance provided through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but only when they are provided by licensed lactation consultants. Rhode Island currently has no process for licensing them, although there is a board certification that involves a national certification process with intensive training and clinical hours requirements.
Establishing a licensing process will help cover families who get their insurance through the ACA, and likely others who obtain their insurance through other means.

“Breastfeeding issues can occur anytime throughout the period that a baby is nursing, but many families have coverage to see a lactation consultant for only the first couple of weeks of their infant’s life,” said Senator Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence). “Now more mothers and infants will have the coverage to see a lactation consultant at the time they need one.”

Said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett), “To achieve success, time is of the essence, and new moms need as few barriers as possible. Access to licensed experts who offer support and expertise is just what families need feed their babies in a healthy and cost-effective way.”

This legislation (2014-S 25192014-H 7914) establishes a state licensing process and will require those representing themselves as licensed lactation consultants to adhere to it. The specific requirements of the licensing process would be established by the Department of Health based on national criteria established by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners or other national standards.

The legislation is supported by the Rhode Island Breastfeeding Coalition.

“All mothers, regardless of their individual circumstances, should have consistent access to quality lactation support services. This bill will greatly help to improve the health of mothers and babies in our state by increasing access to important early help with infant feeding. It provides protection for the public and reassurance to healthcare providers that a referral is being made to a competent, licensed professional whose main focus is to protect the mother and infant,” said Michael Fink of the Breastfeeding Coalition’s licensing committee. “This bill will help provide access to care, for women within every community, when they want it most- in the early days postpartum, or as needed through the entire breastfeeding life-cycle.”