Preemie Reauthorization Bill Introduced In Senate and House for 2013

February 7, 2013

Bipartisan legislation to help lower the nation’s preterm birth rate and help save babies’ lives was introduced today in the U.S. Senate. Similar legislation was introduced yesterday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) have introduced the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act, which advances federal research and promotes known interventions and community initiatives to reduce preterm birth and infant mortality caused by prematurity.

“We’ve made significant progress since the original PREEMIE Act in 2006,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, President of the March of Dimes. “Preterm birth rates have now dropped for five consecutive years after rising steadily for three decades. Reauthorizing the PREEMIE Act will help us reach the March of Dimes goal of lowering the preterm birth rate to 9.6 percent by 2020 and reduce the number of infant deaths and childhood disabilities caused by premature birth.”

“This important bill will allow the scientists and doctors researching the causes of premature birth and its prevention to continue their work,” said Sen. Alexander. “We have seen great progress since we first introduced this bill, but with an average of 236 premature babies a week born in Tennessee, there is more to be done. I applaud the March of Dimes for its persistent work in reducing premature births.”

“The United States can and should lead in research to develop new treatments for preterm birth,” Sen. Bennet said. “In Colorado, one in every 10 babies is born too soon every year. This bipartisan bill will help us better understand the causes of preterm births and how we can reduce the number of them. I urge my colleagues in Congress to pass this bill quickly.”

“Every day, one in nine infants in the United States is born prematurely, costing our economy at least $26 billion per year in lifesaving care,” said Rep. Eshoo. “Reauthorizing the PREEMIE Act will continue to fuel progress in reducing our nation's premature birth rate by supporting federal research and promoting known interventions and community initiatives. For the sake of the more than 500,000 babies who are born prematurely each year, we must reauthorize the PREEMIE Act to ensure that each and every one of them has a healthy start in life.”

"Reauthorizing the PREEMIE Act will help address the critical issue of preventing premature birth, which is the leading cause of newborn death in the United States today,” said Rep. Lance. “I am pleased to work with my colleagues on this important prematurity prevention legislation."

The bill is supported by the March of Dimes, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses and 16 other organizations.

“We’re deeply grateful to our bill sponsors, Senators Lamar Alexander and Michael Bennet and Representatives Anna Eshoo and Leonard Lance, for their continued commitment to improving the health of our nation’s women and children,” said Dr. Howse. “We urge Congress to quickly pass this lifesaving legislation.”

The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act reauthorizes critical federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality. Today’s legislation is nearly identical to the bills that passed both the House and Senate during the 112th Congress. Congress adjourned before the Senate could reconsider its version with House amendments. 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.

One in nine infants is born premature in the United States. Preterm delivery can happen to any pregnant woman; in the majority of 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 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.