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Advocates call for a climate peace clause in U.S.-E.U. trade talks, negotiations yield a tentative debt ceiling deal, an Idaho case unravels federal water protections, and a wet spring eases Iowa's drought.

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Gold Star families gather to remember loved ones on Memorial Day, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says the House will vote on a debt ceiling bill this week and America's mayors lay out their strategies for summertime public safety.

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The growing number of "maternity care deserts" makes having a baby increasingly dangerous for rural Americans, a Colorado project is connecting neighbor to neighbor in an effort to help those suffering with mental health issues, and a school district in Maine is using teletherapy to tackle a similar challenge.

NY Expands Premature Babies' Access to Breast Milk

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017   

NEW YORK – The New York state budget now allows low-income mothers to get donor breast milk for premature babies through Medicaid. Low-weight, premature infants are at high risk of dying from necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC. The best food to help them ward off the disease is human breast milk, but some mothers don't produce enough.

According to Julie Bouchet-Horwitz, executive director of The New York Milk Bank, it costs about $3,200 to supply enough donor milk for each premature infant while he or she is in the hospital. But treating NEC can cost $350,000.

"For every six babies that you treat with donor milk, you save one incidence of NEC, so it's definitely cost effective for them to prevent this disease," she said.

Pasteurized donor human milk costs $4.50 an ounce. The nonprofit New York Milk Bank is the only donor milk bank operating in the state.

About 3,300 premature infants are born in New York each year, and the availability of Medicaid coverage could increase the demand for donor milk. Although the New York Milk Bank just opened last September, Bouchet-Horwitz says they're ready.

"We knew that about 200,000 ounces would be needed to feed these babies," she added. "We planned to meet that need and have everything in place for when this happened so that's what we prepared for."

Private insurance doesn't pay for donor breast milk, but some infants are being covered on a case-by-case basis.

Bouchet-Horwitz thinks the availability of Medicaid coverage may spur insurance companies to add breast milk to their policies and lead to an overall increase in breastfeeding.

"We're hoping that this will infiltrate down to the public in general the importance of human milk and how species-specific it is, what a specialized food it is and first food for all babies," she explained.

Several other states already provide Medicaid coverage for donor breast milk.


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