Bill for Easier Access to Donor Breast Milk for At-Risk Infants Heads to House Floor

Bill for Easier Access to Donor Breast Milk
for At-Risk Infants Heads to House Floor

HB 156 Establishes Insurance Plan Coverage of Donated Breast Milk


The House State Government, Indian and Veterans Affairs Committee on Tuesday passed legislation that would make it easier for families with at-risk infants to get donated breast milk to help their babies while they are in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

 

Many premature babies who end up in the NICU are at great risk for infection. Consuming breast milk provides infants with key antibodies and immune system support, which can help to save their lives. However, many mothers of babies born prematurely are unable, for medical reasons, to produce their own breast milk. As a result, neonatologists and families depend on donated breast milk.

 

“Breast milk is the best medicine for premature babies,” said Rep. Debbie Armstrong, the bill’s sponsor. “Unfortunately, like many other life-saving medications, the cost of donated breast milk can be prohibitive—especially for families who are already being billed thousands of dollars a day for the care their infant needs to survive.”

 

In New Mexico, the average cost of an ounce of breast milk—donated through a professional breast milk bank—costs $4.50 an ounce. The average infant in a NICU takes in about 100 ounces of breast milk during their time in the hospital, which means an additional $450 that families often must pay out of pocket.

 

To address the issue, HB 156 establishes insurance coverage of donated breast milk in the state.

 

“Insurance coverage of donated breast milk just makes sense,” Armstrong said. “A small investment in donated breast milk reduces the length of expensive NICU stays and dramatically reduces the need for costly, high-risk surgeries on premature babies. An ounce of breast milk truly is an ounce of prevention that insurance companies should support.”

 

Having passed HSIVC by a vote of 5-4, HB 156 now heads to the House floor for consideration.

 

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About Rep. Armstrong: Debbie, Chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, is a long-time health care advocate serving her second term in the New Mexico House of Representatives. Having started her career as a physical therapist, she has worked extensively as a health care administrator, working 10 years with Presbyterian Medical Services in Santa Fe. Prior to serving as Secretary of New Mexico’s Aging and Long-Terms Services Department, she oversaw the department’s Consumer and Elder Rights Division. Debbie is the mother of three adult children. She lives in Albuquerque’s North Valley.  Follow her on Twitter @NMRepArmstrong and on Facebook, and sign up for email and text updates.

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