Stop IlliniCare from cutting essential medical equipment, like breastpumps.

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To Whom It May Concern;

The undersigned write to express our concern regarding the service cuts proposed by IlliniCare, one of Illinois’s largest Medicaid managed care providers.

IlliniCare recently announced that it intends to reduce the prices it pays for a whole host of medical products, including breast pumps, by as much as 50 percent. These cuts will force thousands of parents throughout Illinois to use lower-quality breast pumps, making it even harder for them to breastfeed their children.

Low-income parents already face severe obstacles to breastfeeding: inequities in access to healthcare, community resources and employer support all contribute to a breastfeeding rate that is lower than their middle-income counterparts[1]. If their managed care provider reduces the quality of the equipment they use to build and maintain their milk supply, they simply can’t make up for that loss.

“The moms I work with day to day have no other choices. It’s either state insurance or they won’t get the help they need,” says breastfeeding peer counselor and IlliniCare recipient Alisha Gilani. As a mother of two, earning minimum wage while she helps other mothers, she knows all too well the importance of quality healthcare and health equipment. “I was able to help a mom with a breast infection the other day by getting her a pump and helping her to understand how to keep her supply strong. She’s also on IlliniCare, so I’m scared to think about not being able to give her the equipment she needs to keep going.”

Illinois mothers who want to pump at work are protected by state law, but many mothers, particularly those working in minimum-wage retail or service industry jobs, are afforded little to no support for pumping breaks during the work day. If they are allowed to pump at work, they need to be able to do it efficiently and quickly, and the only way they can do that is if they have a high-quality breast pump.

These conditions add additional burdens for our already-vulnerable breastfeeding parents to shoulder. The health benefits of breastfeeding are widely recognized, reducing both mild infant illness and chronic disease in babies. Mothers benefit from breastfeeding as well, with lower rates of heart disease, cancer and postpartum depression[2]. Creating further obstacles to breastfeeding for low-income parents will only widen the health inequity gap and harm already vulnerable infants and mothers.

We urge you to oppose IlliniCare’s Medicaid rate cut and take action to ensure that low-income parents throughout Illinois have equal access to this critical breastfeeding resource as well as to numerous other kinds of medical equipment - from oxygen tanks to wheelchairs - for their families.

Signed,

Breastfeed Chicago

Chicago Area Breastfeeding Coalition

Chicago Region Breastfeeding Taskforce

Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children

EverThrive Illinois

Illinois Association for Infant Mental Health

Illinois Birth Justice

Knox County Health Department

Ounce of Prevention

Precious Jewels Moms Ministries



[1] www.usbreastfeeding.org/d/do/189
[2] http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/breastfeeding/en/



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