SimpliFed, a national provider of lactation and baby feeding support, is now in network with Optum’s VA Community Care Network.
The new deal grants female veterans in the eastern half of the U.S. access to virtual baby feeding support, available seven days a week, at no cost to the patient and no limits on the number of appointments. An estimate of how many women SimpliFed will be serving was not readily available.
Women make up 10% of the veteran population and are the fastest-growing group among veterans. Female veterans who receive Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) care also have an increased risk of pregnancy-related mortality.
Yet many veterans facilities don’t have maternal health care services, according to SimpliFed. Providing lactation support virtually is key to improving access: “Not everyone lives near a VA facility and very few VA facilities have this,” SimpliFed founder and CEO Andrea Ippolito told Fierce Healthcare. She added that the VA has been a leader in telehealth, so the partnership is a natural extension of its solid work.
SimpliFed also serves active duty members with its TRICARE contract and has additional national commercial and state Medicaid contracts. Baby feeding support is vital to the health of parents and babies, SimpliFed argues, and is mandated by law under the Affordable Care Act.
But many families may not be aware they have access to such benefits, according to Ippolito.
SimpliFed hopes to partner with community resources that understand veteran populations, such as veteran service organizations, and collaborate with the VA to raise awareness.
The startup also offers a variety of reminders to parents, including to attend their six-week postpartum and well baby visits. It also performs maternal mental health screenings, like for postpartum depression, referring patients to resources as needed. It explains extra benefits for certain members who have them, like Medicaid enrollees, and also measures ER utilization, hospitalization, breastfeeding rates, no-show rates and baby feeding self-efficacy.
“This population so deserves the best access to quality care,” Ippolito said. “Baby feeding is a central piece of maternal and child health care and by improving access to breastfeeding and baby feeding support … you’re expanding access to other services.”