Alexander-Bennet Bill to Reduce Premature Births Moves Forward in Senate

Bipartisan PREEMIE Reauthorization Act Passes Senate HELP Committee

WASHINGTON, February 13 – Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), today praised the passage in the committee of their bill to reduce infant deaths and disabilities by expanding research, education, and intervention activities related to preterm birth. The bill passed the committee by voice vote.

Sen. Alexander, Ranking Member of the committee, said: “We have seen great progress since we first introduced this bill, but premature birth still remains the leading killer of newborns and a major cause of lasting disabilities—finding answers to this problem is one of the urgent challenges confronting medicine today.  This bill will help the more than half a million babies born prematurely in the nation each year and help researchers working to prevent these births from happening too early in the first place."

Sen. Bennet said:  “Preterm births put babies at risk and create enormous pressure on parents. This bill will help us learn more and reduce the number of babies born too soon, which in Colorado is one in every 10. Today we took an important step to move the bill forward and I urge my colleagues in Congress to continue this progress and pass the bill quickly.”

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the annual societal costs associated with preterm birth were $26.2 billion in 2005 or $51,600 per infant born preterm.  Nearly two-thirds of this $26.2 billion estimate was spent on medical care, a figure that does not include the cost of medical care beyond early childhood or caretaker costs such as lost wages. 

The PREEMIE Act reauthorizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) research and programs on preterm birth, including improving national data tracking on preterm birth, and conducting studies. The bill also adds prenatal care for high-risk pregnancies to the Health Resources and Services Administration telehealth network grant program.

A companion bill was introduced in the House by Representatives Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ). The bill is supported by the March of Dimes Foundation, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

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