Medical health insurance plans, nonprofits team as much as get baby formula to Recent Yorkers in need


Zaldivar said Spanish-speaking members specifically were wanting to get on the phone with a plan representative to ask questions not only about finding formula but additionally other resources they needed, reminiscent of diapers and referrals to parenting classes.

Emblem also provided its members with a listing of community-based organizations reminiscent of Sisters With Purpose in Brooklyn and Blanche Memorial Church in Queens.

Among the many nonprofits working on the front lines of the crisis is Queens Community House, which maintains a listing of greater than a dozen individuals who have visited its food pantry in need of formula. Every time a donation is available in, the nonprofit reaches out so as of best need; possibly that person’s baby is sick, or requires a particular formula. The cans practically fly off the shelves, said Zani Simmons, the nonprofit’s director of community engagement.

Linda Harelick, executive director the Recent York Milk Bank, a nonprofit in Westchester County that collects and distributes breast milk from donors, said health plans could help combat the shortage by covering donated breast milk for all infants. 

The nonprofit primarily provides milk to hospitals, which feed it to premature and sick infants of their care. In such cases, the state’s Medicaid program covers donated milk at a reimbursement rate of $5 per ounce, Harelick said.

“For premature and sick babies, it’s really a medical necessity,” Harelick said. “It’s like a drugs.”

Families whose babies usually are not hospitalized can place orders for the milk bank’s excess supply. The bank also negotiates single-case agreements with private health plans to cover the supply of its donated supply to other babies in need. But even then, Harelick said, the organization struggles to get reimbursement from insurance.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office didn’t reply to requests for comment on whether the administration will take regulatory motion to get local health plans to cover donated milk.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking steps to handle the monthslong crisis by importing infant formula products from abroad, local innovators including Laura Katz are working on a longer-term fix.

Katz, founder and CEO of Helaina, is using food science technology to supply and commercialize an artificial breast milk that provides the identical immune-building advantages as the true thing.

The startup, which has a lab at Deerfield Management’s Cure life sciences campus in Gramercy, has been developing its product for greater than two and a half years. The subsequent step, a clinical study, is within the planning process and expected to get off the bottom next yr.

Katz said the FDA’s regulatory process for infant formula details specific timelines and involves many checks and balances—which is each a critical preventive measure and a big barrier to recent products entering the market. Every batch of formula must be tested for contaminants and evaluated for adequate nutrient levels.

“It’s a difficult category to maneuver quickly in,” she said.


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