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NYS Legislators Call For Adequate Financial Support For Donor Breast Milk

If signed into law, New York will join California, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, Utah and Washington D.C. in providing insurance coverage for donor human milk.

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NYS legislators and advocates hold press conference calling for financial coverage for the cost of donor breast milk.

Photo by: Nora Pacher, via Free Images.

Albany, NY - May 23, 2016 - Today Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Health, Kemp Hannon, and Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages were joined by Chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Health Richard N. Gottfried and Assembly member Steve Englebright  in calling for the passage of A9353A/S.6583.  This bill would ensure adequate financial support for the use of donated, pasteurized breast milk – a life-saving, cost-effective treatment for high-risk, premature infants born at less than 3 ½ pounds.  If signed into law, New York will join California, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, Utah and Washington D.C. in providing insurance coverage for donor human milk.   

“Equal access to donor breast milk will positively impact the life chances of our state’s tiniest and most critically ill babies, said Assembly member Michaelle C. Solages.  

“Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to provide a child a healthy start in life. While a mother’s own milk is the optimal nutrition for her baby, donor breast milk is the next best option for mothers who are unable to produce breast milk or infants who are unable to receive maternal breast milk. This legislation will ensure infants in need of such nourishment are able to receive donated, pasteurized breast milk.” stated Senator and Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon

“Providing Medicaid coverage of donor breast milk is a health equity issue,” said Assembly member and Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. “More than 70% of pre-term births in New York State are covered by Medicaid,” he added.

Based on New York State live birth data, approximately 3,500 infants would be eligible for this treatment under the new legislation.  “Access to affordable donor breast milk for these infants could save the state an estimated $10.5 million in direct hospitalization costs,” said Assembly member Englebright

Of the approximately 250,000 births in New York State, roughly 3,500 (~1.5%) are born at very low birth weights.   These infants spend months in neonatal intensive care units.  Very low birth weight infants suffer primarily from respiratory, neurologic and nutritional disorders. And for mothers who cannot provide breast milk for medical or other reasons, donor milk is simply better suited to the fragile digestive systems of these newborns than commercial formulas.

Today, due the high costs associated with securing donor breast milk, some hospitals allow parents to purchase donor human milk from a certified donor human milk bank. The purchase option creates an unjust, significant healthcare disparity as wealthy mothers can afford this treatment while babies to poor mothers on Medicaid are denied this “best” quality of care. 

"Passage of A.9353A/S.6583, providing insurance coverage for very sick and very small newborns will help some of our most fragile babies from low income families’ survive." said Elie Ward, Director of Policy & Advocacy for the NYS American Academy of Pediatrics. "This legislation addresses a life threatening health disparity, and should be passed this session," she continued.

Providing coverage for donor milk from a certified milk bank for use in feeding extremely high risk, very low birth weight infants, whose moms cannot for medical reasons provide breast milk, will provide New York’s neonatal physicians with a successful, cost-effective method for helping our state’s babies prevent complex infection, illness and even death.