Committee give bipartisan support to Sen. Brenner bill to expand health care coverage for donor breast milk

Posted: May 12, 2023 | Senator Brenner

AUGUSTA — On Wednesday, the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee voted 11-1 in favor of a bill from Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough. LD 267, “An Act to Require Private Insurance Coverage for Donor Breast Milk,” would expand health care coverage by requiring private insurance carriers to cover donor breast milk.

Sen. Stacy Brenner

“When infants are ill or premature, breast milk is especially important to their recovery and growth. However, parents are not always able to provide enough of their own breast milk to nurture the infant,” said Sen. Brenner. “In these cases, donor breast milk is necessary to provide sufficient nutrients for infants, to ensure their livelihood and optimal growth. This provides a level of equity when the cost of donor breast milk presents a financial barrier for a young family. Requiring private insurance companies to provide coverage for donor breast milk, similar to how MaineCare covers donor breast milk, offers the best opportunity for a healthy start and optimal nourishment for a compromised infant.”

As amended by committee, this legislation would help to make donor breast milk affordable and accessible for all Mainers. Currently, MaineCare covers the cost of donor breast milk. LD 267 would ensure that those covered by private insurance also have access to this coverage.

Mikenzie Dwyer of the Public Health and Government Affairs Associate with the Maine Medical Association testified in favor of the bill.

“The health effects of breastfeeding are well recognized. Breast milk is the best source of infant nutrition and immunologic protection. Breast milk can also be an essential medicine for infants on the cusp of life and death, helping to prevent infection and ensure health brain development,” said Dwyer. “Pasteurized donor milk is safe and may be considered in situations in which the supply of maternal milk is insufficient. For infants who are extremely medically fragile, human breast milk may be the only appropriate food source for them.”

Since Jan. 1, 2023, infants who are unable to receive breast milk or mothers who cannot produce enough breast milk are covered by public insurance to receive donor breast milk. MaineCare coverage also includes premature babies and babies who are chronically ill and need donor breast milk in order to survive infancy. Public insurance also covers the cost of donor breast milk for infants who are born underweight or have a formula intolerance. This legislation would require private carriers to match the current stipulations of MaineCare, allowing families covered by private insurance to also have access to affordable donor breast milk.

LD 267 now faces votes in the Senate and House.