Laura Patterson, IBCLC, Ontario
As we all know early support is important to get breastfeeding off on the right foot. For many families seeing an IBCLC out of the hospital or a public health setting is an important step on their journey. Sometimes the cost of this valuable service makes it inaccessible. Many families don’t even know that it is an available service in some areas.
Often companies reimburse employees for some of the health related services that Canadians incur that are not covered by our provincial health care; including but not limited to prescriptions, dental, registered massage therapy, naturopathy and many others. This of course does not apply to part time workers, contract or the self or unemployed.
In Ontario, a group of IBCLCs (including myself) have put together The Committee to Regulate Lactation Consultants. One of our main aims is to see the services of the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) covered by extended health care programs.
An American study investigating healthcare savings associated with breastfeeding for over one year found that for every 1000 infants that were not breastfed, there were 2033 more visits to the doctor, 212 more days of hospitalization, and 609 more prescriptions filled, when compared with 1000 infants who were exclusively breastfed for at least 3 months (Ball & Wright, 1999). Ball and Wright estimated that if 90% of American families breastfed exclusively for six months, the cost savings would be $13 billion per year and more than 911 deaths would be prevented (1999). This data can be extrapolated to Canada, as Canada is 1/9th the population of the US, we could be looking at a healthcare savings of 1.4 Billion dollars.
Currently Manulife, Great West Life, Sunlife and GreenShield cover the services of an IBCLC. However, it is the employer that buys that coverage who determines what is covered under their plan. Many companies now cover complementary health services such as chiropractic, registered massage therapy and naturopathic medicine. Disease prevention should be a large part of extended health care because healthier employees (and their families) means better employees. Better employees means a healthier bottom line.
At the International Breastfeeding Centre (www.ibconline.ca) in Toronto, we have been offering a receipt to patients to submit to their extended health care. Sometimes companies will cover under a health care spending type expense. Feedback we have gotten tells us some large unions (such as the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, Peel local) will cover the services of an IBCLC. The confusing part is why other locals (the other Greater Toronto Area school boards) do not cover this service.
Please feel free to reach out to the Ontario Committee to Regulate Lactation Consultants if you have information or contact information for any large employer or union, or if any employers have questions.
Ontario Committee to Regulate Lactation Consultants (https://www.facebook.com/OCRLC) firstname.lastname@example.org
Ball T, Wright A. Health care costs of formula-feeding in the first year of life. Pediatrics. 1999;103(4):870-6.