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Health Care Bill Includes Protection for Nursing Mothers

By Amy Kuras |

obama_children_s_health_dclj107The New York Times “Well” blog has uncovered lots of little known provisions in the health care bill, including one that’s going to be outstanding news for working and nursing mothers and their advocates.

According to the blog, employers are now required to provide breaks for nursing mothers to express milk as often as neccessary, and better yet, to provide space for them to do so that isn’t a bathroom. Employers with less than 50 employees are exempt. Still, I can imagine this being a huge boon to women who work in a retail store, for example, or any other place where most of their workday is interacting with the public and they might be limited to a single 15-minute break per shift without this protection in place.

Another provision in the bill provides a whopping $1.5 billion — that’s with a B — to programs that send nurses into the homes of pregnant teens both during their pregnancies and for a few years afterward. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the parenting and coping skills learned in these programs can help cut child abuse and neglect by nearly half. That $1.5 billion funding injection is the biggest ever for these sorts of programs.

That may come in handy, too, because the bill also restores $50 million in funding for abstinence-only sex education, albeit with a catch that states have to match funding.

Also of note:

Your W-2 form next year will have a line explaining how much your employer spends on health benefits for you. The idea is so that people can have a clear idea of how much health care actually costs.

Starting in 2011, fewer items will be eligible for reimbursement from flexible spending accounts. No more vitamins or over-the counter drugs, unless they’ve been prescribed by a doctor.

And in case you’re a tanorexic, get ready to open your wallet — indoor tanning will now incur a 10 percent excise tax.

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About Amy Kuras


Amy Kuras

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0 thoughts on “Health Care Bill Includes Protection for Nursing Mothers

  1. JEssica says:


  2. SamID says:

    I’d love to see how this works for teachers. Will schools have to send an aide to the classroom so that nursing teachers can go pump? I found pumping extremely difficult while I was teaching. I barely got enough time to go to the bathroom, let alone pump, and the only options were my classroom without a working lock or the bathroom.

  3. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    It’s a step in the right direction. Doesn’t solve everything, but its a step.

  4. jenny tries too hard says:

    step off of a gosh darn cliff, that’s what it is…

  5. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    The cliff built by two wars, an unregulated financial sector, oh and the largest unfunded expansion of healthcare… no, not Obamacare, but the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit? Yeah, that cliff. Well, at least this one helps more than it hurts.

  6. jenny tries too hard says:

    Aaaannnd we’re back…for the record, HATED the unfunded Medicare expansion…

  7. GtothemfckinP says:

    yeah, pretty much easier to deal with nursing if you are HOME WITH YOUR DAMN BABY, like you should be…why not work on some policy that would help more families make that possible

  8. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    We may not agree, but I appreciate your consistency, Jenny. I don’t like the mandate either, forcing citizens to purchase a product from a private company. I was in favor of the idea Obama ran on, which was finding ways to lower the costs of healthcare and insurance and make it affordable for all. The mandate idea was his pragmatic way of getting insurance companies not to fight it (worked) and Republicans to support it (failed) because it was a Republican idea. A lot of this healthcare package is. Primarily, I am happy to see the eventual halt of denying people due to pre-existing conditions.

  9. JEssica says:

    “why not work on some policy that would help more families make that possible” In case you didn’t know, staying at home with your kid(s) is a vacation.

  10. JEssica says:

    “why not work on some policy that would help more families make that possible” And I think United States Citizens in general do not like kids (remember the airplane article).

  11. patricia says:

    It seems to me that these kinds of provisions have lots of unintended consequences. I appreciate the thought behind the nursing space provisions, for example, but in the retail case cited by Amy, I’ve worked retail before, and there’s not usually a lot of space to include a separate, private, non-bathroom area for pumping. Which would a retailer prefer to do, construct partitions (which they may or may not have the right to do, depending on the lease) which take away probably necessary storage or work space, or just fire any woman who tries to assert that right? These kinds of things can really tend to depress opportunities for nursing moms who work. And as so often is the case (sing it with me), it will have a disparate impact on those who work low wage jobs, like retail, manufacturing, etc. I work at a computer all day and have an office with a door that closes; my employer didn’t have to make any accomodation for me to pump. If a woman waits tables, I don’t see that being the case.

  12. GtothemfckinP says:

    cool…so maybe an unintended consequence will be that more moms will just take a little time out and stay home while their babies are nursing…that would be nice!

  13. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Well, like they said, employers of 50 or less people are exempt from these regs because they wouldn’t be feasible. Like I said, it’s a positive step, but by no means a end-all, be-all solution.

  14. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    “Oooh, maybe an unintended consequence is that more moms can live in homeless shelters with their kids… they can nurse them in a homeless shelter, amirite? Awesome!!” Another dispatch from the privileged and clueless.

  15. patricia says:

    Or the unintended consequences are that mothers who have to work will be discouraged from trying to breastfeed. I think dealing with the world as it is usually is more productive than trying to wish utopia into existence, and the reality is that many women, especially the women who work the kinds of low-wage jobs I was discussing, have no choice but to work. These provisions may make it harder for women of childbearing age to keep those jobs, or, like I said, discourage breastfeeding in those women. Given the way management often operates in a retail/food service/hospitality setting anyway, I think any woman who asks for separate space and time in which to pump is going to get laughed at first, and fired second, if she keeps pushing.

  16. GtothemfckinP says:

    So, according to you all the poor are screwed no matter how you slice it? What are we discussing here, then?

  17. JEssica says:

    The health care reform bill (in my humble opinion) is an attack on the poorest in our nation. Right now, if you are below the proverty line you get free medical care. The line set by this bill where you are required to have insurance or be penalized is below the proverty line. So now the poor will have pay for health insurance (which takes away their earnings) or be tax penalized (which also takes away their earnings) and still have health bills they can not bankrupt themselves out of thanks to legislation by the Bush Adminstration. This bill however will help reduce cost for our oldest, most costly citizens whether they are poor or not. In addition it will increase cost for young families.

  18. [...] coverage for our kids, mandatory nursing space in the workplace…Obama’s health care plan is proving to be a boon to [...]

  19. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    JEssica, this bill *increased* the income level poor families could make and qualify for Medicare. Where are you getting your info?

  20. jenny tries too hard says:

    GP, the vast majority of households in poverty and in the lower working class are headed by single moms…there is no option for them to just stay home for a couple of years, unless you want to pay their rent and bills while they do it.

    Patricia’s point about retail is a good one and applies to foodservice and other industries as well. Businesses that are forced to comply will likely have to pay for more storage somewhere, or pay for some remodeling or to have an addition built—and guess who ultimately pays for that? Oh, right, the consumer, when the prices of shoes or cheese or funeral services go up to accomadate the expense. And do employers take a chance on hiring when they have not just this new expense, but all the other regulations and expenses in this bill hanging over their head? No, they don’t…so expect unemployment to continue.

    Also expect health insurance premiums to go up, when EVERYBODY thumbs their dang noses at the mandate untill they get their very own pre-existing condition…so much for reducing costs…and please remember health insurers work on 2-6% profit margin as it is, before y’all start fussing about how they can just take it on the bottom line.

    Okay, off my soapbox.

  21. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Profit margins don’t necessarily tell the complete picture when talking about the insurance industry. Return on equity tells it a lot better, as the “product” that the insurance company is selling fluctuates in value depending on the risk of the company having to pay out. The profit margin numbers come from assuming they will have to pay out a dollar amount, a metric that they establish privately, on every policy they hold. Not to mention costs of administration, which include to a large extent, research departments that try to figure out ways of denying people coverage.

  22. GtothemfckinP says:

    So again, there was beaucoup bitching before about the current state of things and now bitching about this new way? What is the ideal for helping all these loads of people who are so very impoverished?

    Anyway, from what I’ve read, it says that if you like your current insurance (and you’re regular, middle class, etc. not getting anything for free right now anyway) then your situation will stay the same. So for me, no big deal…even if costs went up a little to help subsidize someone else, I’d be OK with it.

    What I don’t understand is what y’all *want*? Sounds like people want someone else out there to make sure everything is taken care of for them. That’s not going to happen.

    Single moms don’t get that way magically. Are there really THAT many asshole louts in the world to serious tip the scales to where there are so many of them out there that local charities can’t help them out? If there are so many asshole men ruining families out there, then our problems as a society are way bigger than healthcare…

  23. BlackOrchid says:

    “If there are so many asshole men ruining families out there, then our problems as a society are way bigger than healthcare…”

    Well, that’s a bit far to take it, but, yes, our problems as a society are way bigger than health insurance issues.

    I think it really just comes down to too many people in the “legislating” business who have all these pie-in-the-sky ideas and too much time/energy/resources to meddle in everyone else’s lives.

    Like many laws, this one is well-intentioned, probably overly-thought-out if anything, and won’t make much of a difference at all.

    Part-time legislators!!! They clearly have way too much time on their hands.

  24. jenny tries too hard says:

    what I want is to see health insurance compete across state lines, tax credits to consumers who purchase insurance individually, rather than through their employer, Medicare and Medicaid moved to a market-value voucher system to encourage provider competition and quality service, tort reform, increased incentives for providers to settle and negotiate (rather than write-off) emergency care bills for the uninsured…and restore the value of tax deductions for charitable donations so that private charities will be more able to pick up the slack.

    Just cause you asked, GP

  25. GtothemfckinP says:

    thanks…and I guess the nursing moms and all the rest can just be dealt w on a case by case basis by private biz owners?

  26. jenny tries too hard says:

    Absolutely…if a business owner wants to attract a certain type of employee, he or she will put certain conditions, like nursing rooms and the like, on the table. Competition works at both levels…competing for employees and competing for business. Companies who offer the most family benefits will get their pick, easily, of the family-minded employees.

  27. ChiLaura says:

    Hear, hear, jenny. Especially with the tort reform. I think that if tort reform were to be enacted (which of course it won’t be anytime soon, thanks to all those Dems “lookin’ out for the little guy” and letting docs get sued to high heaven), VBAC’s (for example) would be much more of a possibility.

    Also, GP, insurance will stay the same, if you have private, UNTIL you want any single tiny part of it to change, including adding another baby, per this lecture by Richard Epstein. I don’t know if anyone will actually watch it — it’s long, and he talks at the speed of light — but that point is one of his first criticisms of the bill. So don’t get too comfy. (Of course, we know that GP won’t have another baby, like all of us irresponsible breeders who don’t have the child’s college tuition already saved, am I right, GP?)

  28. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    It’s interesting how there is this belief that free market competition will compel employers to attract the best and the brightest. I used to believe that as well, I was a big time Ayn Rand reading, capitalism advocating, trickle down economics believer. Then I observed how the real world actually worked… having worked in companies large and small, publicly traded and privately owned, for profit and nonprofit, I have come to the conclusion that institutionalized mediocrity is the American way. They are looking for the cheapest warm body to get the job done. I must check on dinner, then I will watch the rest of your linked video, ChiLaura. But the gist I’m getting immediately is that he is talking about single-payer, which isn’t the legislation that passed.

  29. jenny tries too hard says:

    Sure, they’re looking for the cheapest warm CAPABLE body. Sure, employers won’t make concessions for you unless you have an in-demand skill.

    Institutionalized mediocrity, to me, seems to describe how American government employees, who have generally better benefits than the private sector, more than private-sector businesses. Of course, companies like google and apple that offer good benefits for their top staff do turn out a better product…but don’t think for a minute that if it became mandatory to offer benefits like that to even the marginal employees, those companies would quite quickly turn to contracting out support services, if they don’t already. The bottom line is that if the employer wants to settle for mediocrity, his employees will reflect that, and its his/her choice.

  30. GtothemfckinP says:

    “institutionalized mediocrity is the American way” truer words were never spoken…I don’t think it has always been this way, but it certainly appears to be now

  31. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    The mediocrity is everywhere. I wish I could say it was limited to government employees. I wish I could say it was simply my own skewed worldview based on limited experiences. And large technology firms have been farming out their call centers overseas for quite some time now. Most companies settle… no, aim for mediocrity… it costs less in the long run. The companies that I had personal experience with, along with my friends and colleagues firsthand experiences tells me otherwise. None of the experiences I refer to were unskilled labor, either.
    Back to healthcare, though. I like some of your ideas, although I question whether there’s reasonable debate as to how some of these would work. I wish the politicians had worked together to try a broader spectrum of ideas, like um, reduction of costs, much? But I maintain that getting rid of the way some companies relied on the flimsiest information to try to prove a preexisting condition in order to get out of paying for care… that was something very important to me. I haven’t heard much about the bill that I majorly object to. I hope that it can be refined over time.

  32. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Here’s a longish article that describes one of the measures I wish would be pushed in more hospitals, with government authority, if need be, it is just that important. But of all places, guess where there is resistance? From those who stand to benefit the most, aside from their patients:

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