Congresswoman Lucy McBath, a Democrat Congresswoman from Georgia, is pushing legislation to make infant formula ‘more affordable.’
The measure introduced this week is H.R.3151, the WIC Healthy Beginnings Act. McBath’s office said the bill will “encourage competition, reduce costs, and improve the quality of infant formula options available through the state Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) programs with an online database.”
The bill currently has bipartisan support with the backing of Republican Lisa McClain of Michigan and Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa. Republican Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas and Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
McBath said Wednesday that the bill will improve transparency when it comes to formula contracts through WIC.
“Like so many women in America, I struggled to get pregnant. My son, Jordan, was a blessing for me and for my family, and I remember how special it was to care for my infant son. Mothers, infants, and families across this country rely on the resources, education, and support that WIC provides, and high-quality nutrition for children is one of the most important steps we can take to set our children up for future success. Our bill will improve the transparency, quality, and competition of the formula contracts available under WIC, and I thank my colleagues for their collaboration as we work to advance infant nutrition, reduce costs, and improve outcomes.”
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides half of infants born in the U.S. with access to breastfeeding education and counseling and supplemental nutritious food. While WIC is primarily a breastfeeding promotion program, WIC does offer iron-fortified infant formula for partially breastfed and fully formula-fed infants. McBath’s office said leading health experts and federal agencies recommend Iron-fortified infant formula as an appropriate substitute when breast milk is not an option. WIC participants obtain access to infant formula through the state WIC agency’s competitive bidding process.
The WIC Healthy Beginnings Act aims to improve the WIC public-private partnership to more closely align with regular contracting norms to ensure transparency and access to high quality and safe products. Specifically, this bipartisan legislation will establish a federal public notice for all open WIC infant formula contracts that will increase competitive applications for state WIC agencies and improve transparency infant formula manufacturers to compete.
This act would require WIC State agencies to submit an open solicitation description to USDA, which will use this information to maintain a “fully searchable database” that includes:
- the title of the bid solicitation and the WIC State agency administering the bid solicitation;
- the website hyperlink and other information needed for the purpose of submitting a bid to the State agency in response to a bid solicitation;
- the contact information and website hyperlink for the State agency administering the bid solicitation for the purpose of gathering additional information relating to the bid solicitation; and
- the period during which bids are accepted or the due date for bids, as applicable, under the bid solicitation.
The legislation is endorsed by the National WIC Association, the Infant Nutrition Council of America, National Milk Producers Federation, and March of Dimes.
“The Healthy Beginnings Act represents an important step in streamlining WIC’s program administration, reducing burdens for WIC agencies and industry partners alike. For nearly 50 years, WIC has proven to be a sound investment, delivering improved nutrition outcomes for women, infants, and young children across the country. This bill will help ensure the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars, magnifying WIC’s public health impact. We extend our gratitude to Reps. Lucy McBath (D-GA) and Lisa McClain (R-MI) for their leadership in spearheading this legislation,” said Dr. Jamila Taylor, President and CEO of the National WIC Association, in a press release.