WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Senate has passed S. 252, the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act. The bipartisan legislation reauthorizes federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.
"The March of Dimes applauds the passage by the Senate of the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, President of the March of Dimes. "Although we have made great progress in reducing our nation's preterm birth rate from historic highs, the United States still has the highest rate of preterm birth of any developed country. The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act will ensure that federal research and prevention efforts are in place to sustain our progress."
One in nine infants is born premature in the United States. Preterm delivery can happen to any pregnant woman; in many cases, the cause of preterm birth is unknown. Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal death, and those babies who survive are more likely to suffer from intellectual and physical disabilities. In addition to its human, emotional, and financial impact on families, preterm birth places a tremendous economic burden on the nation.
"A preterm birth costs about 12 times as much as healthy birth," said Dr. Howse. "As a result, premature birth is a major driver of health insurance costs for employers and public programs. Many states are finding that by investing in prematurity prevention, they can reduce their Medicaid expenses."
"We especially thank the bill sponsors Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) for their leadership on this lifesaving legislation," she added. "We look forward to the U.S. House of Representatives taking up this measure as soon as possible."
The original PREEMIE Act (P.L. 109-450) brought the first-ever national focus to prematurity prevention. The Surgeon General's Conference on the Prevention of Preterm Birth required by the Act generated a public-private agenda to spur innovative research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and support evidence-based interventions to prevent preterm birth. The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act reauthorizes critical federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.
A 2006 report by the Institute of Medicine found the cost associated with preterm birth in the United States was $26.2 billion annually, or $51,600 per infant born preterm. Employers, private insurers and individuals bear approximately half of the costs of health care for these infants, and another 40 percent is paid by Medicaid.
The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose volunteers and staff work to improve the health of infants and children by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education and advocacy. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org.