By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY– Few bills before the Alabama legislature have the ability to actually save lives SB196 is one of those bill. SB196 is designed to provide medicine and services needed in the treatment for at-risk newborn babies particularly those born prematurely.
Known as the Healthy infant Act this bill meant to spare parents from the greatest loss possible–a child. This bill sits in a pile of other bills waiting on a vote. The act would require that the state Medicaid Agency develop and implement policies and procedures to streamline the process for access.
Under the provisions of the Healthy Infant Act protocols for outpatient drugs administered to premature infants will be developed. One of the grave dangers for some infants, especially premature babies, is the treatment of the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
The sponsor of the bill Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville ) says, “It is a simple bill, aimed at reducing our high infant mortality rate [we rank 49th in the Nation]. This is one of the few bills to pass the Senate with unanimous and bipartisan support.”
Healthy Infant Act has had three public hearings in the Statehouse and each time t has received a favorable report with no nays.
RSV is the leading cause of pneumonia and bronchiolitis in babies and is the most frequent cause of lower respiratory tract infections in children. According to a study published in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal in July 2002, RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization of infants under the age of one. In addition, RSV is thought to play a major role in the development of childhood asthma.
Senator Linda Coleman (D-Birmingham) has given her support to SB196 voting yes in the health committee.
“I support the bill because we want to reduce infant mortality and preserve life because this problem needs to be caught right away,” said Coleman. “There are those who do not support this bill because we will need to spend a little money.” Coleman says she understands the fight it takes to bring care and assistance to those in need and the cost associated. “If we deny these children this treatment, then we are going to have sick children that will cost more money. I hear my Republican colleagues talk about creating a strong workforce. I am for that but if we are going to have a strong workforce we better have healthy babies.”
ADPH Director, Dr. Williamson having stepped up to the challenge of helping steer Medicaid, has asked for a two year sunset to ensure that allowing physicians to provide lifesaving preventative services in accordance to FDA guidelines, is not compromised by a restrictive policy that puts high risk premature infants in mortal danger. Williamson’s support shows that he understands that preventative care saves money. Senator Gerald Dial, Rep. Jim McClendon (R-Springville) the companion bill sponsor and Dr. Williamson have worked through issues to find a solution that has the potential to literally save lives across the state, in all races, all regions, all socioeconomic classes.
“We are spending a lot of time, money and legislative effort on the unborn. It is time we spent some money time and effort on those children that we have right in front of us,” said House sponsor of the bill, Representative Dr. Jim McClendon (R-Springville). “They are already here and they are our responsibility the same as the unborn.”
With there joint co operation Dr. Williamson, Dr. McClendon and Senator Dial understand that compassion and fiscal accountability do not have to be mutually exclusive of each other.