Sens. Bennet, Alexander and Reps. Eshoo, Lance Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Reduce Premature Births

Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Reps. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Cali.) and Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), today introduced legislation to reduce infant deaths and disabilities by expanding research, education, and intervention activities related to preterm birth.

Sen. Bennet said: “The United States can and should lead in research to develop new treatments for preterm birth.  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 them. I urge my colleagues in Congress to pass this bill quickly.”

Sen. Alexander said: “This important bill will allow the scientists and doctors researching the causes of premature birth and its prevention to continue their work.  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.”

Rep. Eshoo said: “Every day, one in eight infants in the United States is born prematurely, costing our economy at least $26 billion per year in lifesaving care. 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.”

Rep. Lance said: "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.  I am pleased to work with my colleagues on this important prematurity prevention legislation."

In addition to being the leading cause of newborn death, premature birth can cause a lifetime of health challenges and intellectual disabilities for those children who do survive. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the annual societal costs associated with preterm birth were $26.2 billion in 2005 or $51,600 per infant born preterm.  Nearly two-thirds of this $26.2 billion estimate was spent on medical care, a figure that does not include the cost of medical care beyond early childhood or caretaker costs such as lost wages. 

The PREEMIE bill reauthorizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) research and programs on preterm birth, including improving national data tracking on preterm birth, and conducting studies. The bill also adds prenatal care for high-risk pregnancies to the Health Resources and Services Administration telehealth network grant program.

The bill requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality to develop a plan for conducting and supporting research, education and programs on preterm birth within the first year of enactment, and requires the HHS secretary to coordinate existing studies on hospital readmission of preterm infants and to report on recommendations within a year of enactment.

“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.  We’re deeply grateful to 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.  We urge Congress to quickly pass this lifesaving legislation.”

This legislation is supported by the March of Dimes Foundation, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of Women’s Health, and Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.