Preemie Reauthorization Act Passes Senate; Now Goes to President For Signature

Washington, District of Columbia | Thursday, November 14, 2013

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The U.S. Senate has passed S. 252, the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act, representing the final step in the bill’s consideration by Congress. The legislation, which reauthorizes federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality, now goes to the President for signature into law.

“In 2006, the U.S. preterm birth rate peaked at 12.8 percent of all births, meaning that one in every 8 infants was born too early,” stated March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer L. Howse. “That same year, the U.S. Congress passed the PREEMIE Act. Since that time, the March of Dimes has led a focused, multi-faceted effort to reduce preterm birth rates, and they have gone down now for six consecutive years. Today, our preterm birth rate stands at 11.5 percent nationwide, and we estimate that 176,000 fewer babies were born prematurely over that time span.

“It is especially fitting that Congress has passed the PREEMIE Act now, during Prematurity Awareness Month. During November, organizations all over the world are educating people and policymakers about the toll of preterm birth, how it can be prevented, and what more we need to learn in order to relegate prematurity to the medical history books. The U.S. Congress has stepped up to pledge that our government will play a central role in preterm birth education, prevention and research.”

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 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 commends the U.S. Congress for passing the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act to help prevent preterm birth and research its causes,” Dr. Howse added. “We are deeply grateful to the bill’s bipartisan champions, Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), for their tireless work on behalf of this legislation. We are also thankful to the leadership of the committees of jurisdiction – Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IO) and ranking member and bill sponsor Lamar Alexander (R-TN) as well as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and ranking member Henry Waxman (D-CA) -- for their efforts to promote healthy pregnancies, healthy babies, and healthy families.”

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.

About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.

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