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Donated breast milk is expensive. Lawmakers have a plan to help babies under Medicaid get access

a black and white photo shows a baby drinking from a bottle. An adult's hand is helping to hold the bottle.
Kelly Sikkema

A bill moving through the Florida legislature would help cut cost barriers when infants born prematurely need breast milk from a donation bank.

“In the mommy blog world, breast milk is called liquid gold and it’s done so for a reason," said Rep. Fiona McFarland (R-Sarasota).

McFarland has a bill to help babies born into some of the state’s lowest-income families get access to breast milk when it's needed.

"In Florida, 58 percent of childbirths the baby is on Medicaid...and this donor breast milk is so helpful to those little, tiny babies to get healthy, to get out of the NICU and back to their families quicker," McFarland said.

Premature babies and infants born at a low birth weight can sometimes suffer from digestive disorders. Doctors say feeding breast milk can sometimes help. When breast milk can't come from the baby's parent, donation banks are a solution but can be expensive.

Under McFarland's legislation, breast milk from donor banks would be covered by Medicaid for hospital inpatients in certain situations.

Rep. Traci Koster (R-Tampa) said while including breast milk in Medicaid coverage is an added expense, it's likely to save money in the long run.

“The cost of the medical care that would come if we weren’t providing this milk to those babies that needed it I think is something really important. The back end cost of that medical care would far exceed the actual breast milk," Koster said.

During a House committee hearing on the measure, some lawmakers said they’d like to expand the eligibility for more infants to qualify for breast milk coverage under Medicaid. McFarland says she sees her bill as a first step and hopes for the possibility of expansion in the future.

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Regan McCarthy covers healthcare and government in Tallahassee, Florida. She is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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