Military families be warned: Inaccurate Facebook posts promising free baby formula are circulating widely.
The viral post, which has been reposted many times, claims: “Due to recent shortages and inflation on baby formula, Tricare has a program that supplies baby milk for free based on how much the child consumes within the month.” It refers to supplies from a civilian company, Military Medical Supplies.
This is not an authorized post; it did not come from Military Medical Supplies or from anyone associated with the company, said David Scheidt, the owner of the company, on Monday.
The post is misleading, making it sound like the company can provide regular formula — through Tricare — for any baby. In fact, the company fills medical prescriptions for very specialized formulas. Every prescription the company submits to Tricare must follow strict rules, Scheidt said, supported by documentation for medical necessity. The post includes a copy of a legitimate form that parents can submit for those limited, specialized prescriptions, filled out by their pediatrician.
The company is also dealing with the nationwide shortage of these specialized formulas, he said, and is working with its vendors to get the critical formulas to their their families. It’s now seeing delays of two to four weeks, or longer, depending on the formula, he said.
Military Medical Supplies contacts families about the delays and advises them to consult with their pediatrician if there’s an alternative formula that might be acceptable for their baby.
The company is trying to get the Facebook posts removed, especially since there is a nationwide shortage of baby formula and panic among some new parents. Since the Facebook post went up, the company has received numerous calls — and about 75 emails today — from military families inquiring about free baby formula.
While not mentioning the inaccurate posts specifically, Tricare contractor Humana Military posted a statement on its Facebook page Monday afternoon: “Please be aware: While Tricare covers formulas and vitamins for enrollees with metabolic disorders, Tricare does not cover regular baby formula for otherwise-healthy infants.
“Tricare also does not directly ship baby formula to beneficiaries. Parents with children who have a medical need for specialized formula should work with their pediatrician, Primary Care Manager (PCM) or specialist in the case that the formula they need is unavailable.”
Defense Health Agency officials did not immediately respond to questions about whether they are aware of inaccurate posts.
Defense officials said Monday that baby formula stocks in overseas commissaries are at about 70% of what would normally be on shelves, and about 50% of normal levels in U.S. stores.
“We’re not immune to the same supply chain problems that the rest of the country is facing,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. “The Defense Commissary Agency is already ahead of that problem and is doing everything [it] can to keep things on the shelves as best [it] can.
“Our assessment right now is that both overseas and remote commissaries are currently at an adequate level of supplies for baby formula,” he said.
That’s also the assessment provided by commissary officials last week to Military Times.
Commissary officials have said they are ensuring that stores overseas and in remote U.S. areas get priority in shipments of formula. It will be airlifted to commissaries overseas if necessary because families overseas may have limited options outside commissaries. Officials are also working daily with distributors to get supplies of baby formula.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.