Pennsylvania Senate Bill Would Require Donor Breastmilk Insurance Coverage | New

HARRISBURG — Bipartisan legislation was advanced Tuesday by a Pennsylvania Senate committee that would require public and private insurers to cover the cost of providing pasteurized breast milk to infants in need.

The health and human services committee has also proposed separate measures to evenly stagger the distribution of benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and to facilitate the development of assisted living residences.

All three bills are returned to the Senate for consideration.

The committee chair, Senator Michele Brooks, R-50, Jamestown, is the main sponsor of the milk bill. Its aim, among other things, is not only to ensure access and payment for donor milk, but also to improve medical outcomes, especially for the life-threatening gastrointestinal disorder in premature babies, l necrotizing enterocolitis.

Additional eligibility requirements include birth weights less than 4 pounds, birth at 34 weeks or younger, congenital heart disease, sepsis, and hypoglycemia. The bill also aims to supplement milk for babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome and whose mothers cannot yet produce healthy milk.

Mothers who cannot produce the breastmilk they need, either due to a medical or physical condition, or who have an active addiction, can get a prescription to receive breastmilk from donors.

State law enacted in 2020 requires the Department of Health to license breast milk banks in Pennsylvania. Hospital milk banks that strictly use patient supplies are exempt.

An amendment proposed by Brooks separates reimbursement for donor milk from payments for medical services to ensure payment to donor banks. Another amendment from Sen. Amanda Cappelletti, D-Delaware/Montgomery, bans the online sale of breast milk, saying there is no oversight of milk sold on the Internet.

“Breast milk sold online is unlikely to be screened for infectious disease,” Cappelletti said.

The SNAP Distribution Bill, introduced by Sen. David Argall, R-Berks/Schuylkill, directs the Department of Human Services to evenly stagger benefit distribution dates over a period of 25 days per month.

Benefits are currently distributed individually by counties on varying schedules – some staggered, some not. Argall said uniform spacing would help grocers manage supply and staffing issues.

“When people get all of their SNAP benefits on the same day, they’re likely to visit the grocery store all on the same day,” Argall said.

Brooks said the U.S. Department of Agriculture requested the state move to tiered distribution in 2012 and said that as the legislation advances, it may prompt the Department of Social Services to take action. independently.

The Assisted Living Residences Bill was also introduced by Brooks. She said that when a 2007 law establishing care home licensing and regulation was enacted, it was expected that 300 or more assisted living facilities would have been built by 2015. In January, there was 65.

Brooks’ bill aims to relax the site’s physical requirements by adding a waiver program, such as for the size of living spaces and the use of shared bathrooms. It would also direct the Department of Human Services to include assisted living and supplemental health care services in Community HealthChoices, Pennsylvania’s managed care program for Medicaid recipients.

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Justin D. O'Neill