Advocates to Address Medi-Cal’s Lactation Services Benefit

August 13, 2023

Drawing of a capitol building with the words "Lactation Action Network" Repeated in the backThe lactation support services benefit promised to Medi-Cal participants through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is broken. With nearly 1 in 4 California births being paid for by Medi-Cal, we can’t afford to allow the system to stay broken for much longer.

It seems we’re not alone in this thinking. Recently, the California Dept. of Health Care Services (DHCS) interviewed California Breastfeeding Coalition staff to explore how lactation specialists operate within Medi-Cal today, specifically looking for what is working well and what could be improved. 

We’re still in a place where IBCLCs and other lactation support providers ARE NOT recognized as approved Medi-Cal providers. We don’t even have a clear definition of what services are actually considered “comprehensive lactation services” under the Affordable Care Act.

Right now, the state is actively working on designing the Birthing Care Pathway, a perinatal care model to cover conception through 12 months postpartum with related Medi-Cal benefit and payment strategies. The goal of the Birthing Care Pathway is to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality and to address the racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes among Black, American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN), and Pacific Islander individuals. Lactation is a critical part of quality perinatal care, and our meeting with DHCS was evidence that the state understands this.

However, the project is expansive and lactation alone requires deeper discussion. The CBC believes lactation should get the same level of care and consideration as the doula benefit has. 

For our part, we’re devoting the next Lactation Action Network (LAN) meeting to the discussion. The LAN meets from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24.

During the meeting, we’ll discuss the same questions we answered for the state:

  • What challenges do Medi-Cal-enrolled postpartum individuals face in accessing lactation specialists? How can access be improved?
  • Where have you seen bright spots where postpartum individuals in Medi-Cal are able to access lactation consultants in a timely manner?
  • What policy recommendations do you believe would be successful at supporting Black, American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN), and Asian/Pacific Islander (AAPI) individuals with getting connected to lactation specialists when they need them?

Our hope is to create a list of recommendations to provide to the state to support their efforts in creating a fully formed Birthing Care Pathway for Californians. However, to accomplish that, we need your support. Please register for the network today, so you can participate in the Aug. 24 conversation and offer your perspective as we continue the conversation.