COLUMBUS -- Proponents of increased programming for pregnant women as part of efforts to decrease the state's infant mortality rates want the Ohio Senate to include related provisions in mid-biennium budget legislation set for passage in coming weeks.
The Ohio Association of Community Health Centers and other advocates said during a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse that providing funding for several pilot programs would help to demonstrate the effectiveness of such programs, particularly among needy residents.
Monday's press conference focused on Senate Bill 279, which is part of a package of legislation introduced earlier this year by Sens. Shannon Jones, R-Springboro, and Charleta Tavares, D-Columbus.
According to information compiled by the two lawmakers, Ohio ranks 48th in the country in the number of infants who die before their first birthday. Some 1,045 babies died within 12 months of birth in 2012.
"That is 1,045 too many," said Julie DiRossi King, director of policy and public affairs at the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers.
SB 279 would require the state to establish a prenatal health care pilot program at four sites (two in rural areas and two in urban areas), with an eye toward decreasing premature births, increasing the number of women who participate in programs during their first trimester and increasing the number of women who breastfeed their babies.
Proponents said the programming that would be supported by the legislation would help increase birth weights and likely end up saving the state money.
"Low birth weight babies born to women on Medicaid account for over 50 percent of all Medicaid birth expenditures but only represent about 10 percent of all Medicaid births," DiRossi King said. "Significant savings can accrue from enabling mothers to add just a few ounces to a baby's weight before birth. An increase of 250 grams of birth weight, which is just about a half a pound, saves on average $12,000-$16,000 in the first year of medical expenses."
Lawmakers have scheduled voting sessions through the end of the month, with a handful of additional days available "if needed" in June.
Senate committees are considering a number of mid-biennium budget bills that likely will move before lawmakers recess for the summer.