Florida could soon be allowed to offer donated human milk to infants as part of the Medicaid program under a bill headed to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The House on Tuesday voted unanimously to pass the bill (SB 1770) sponsored by Sen. Lauren Book that would allow the state’s safety net health care program to purchase human milk that could be used for low-weight and high-risk infants. The Senate already voted unanimously to pass the measure on March 1.
“Protecting small babies is something that should have all of our hearts,” said Rep. Fiona McFarland, who sponsored the House version.
Book has sponsored the bill for four consecutive years only to see it fail to reach the finish line. But Republicans are siding with the Senate Democratic leader in pushing the legislation that Sen. Aaron Bean called the “liquid gold” bill.
The legislation spells out that the donor milk would be provided to infants who are “medically or physically unable to receive maternal breast milk or to breastfeed or whose mother is medically or physically unable to produce maternal breast milk or breastfeed.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called breast milk the best source of nutrition for most infants. But sometimes mothers are unable to produce milk when the baby is born prematurely.
While discussing the legislation last week, Book told members the Department of Health did a study last year that showed the use of human donor milk for low-weight infants reduced their mortality and helped them avoid necrotizing enterocolitis, a disease that affects infants’ intestines.
In one of its budget offers, the Senate had proposed $3.8 million for a donor milk pilot project. But that appropriation was not included in the final agreement reached on Tuesday by House and Senate budget negotiators.
The budget does include a $75,000 line item for the Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida to provide milk to babies at home. The bank is in Orlando. According to a Senate analysis of the bill, it supplies pasteurized human milk to neonatal units as well as medically fragile babies at home.
If signed into law, the bill takes effect on July 1.