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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 3, 2019 10:55 AM
From: Senator John DiSanto
To: All Senate members
Subject: Improving Newborn Health Screenings
In the near future, I will introduce legislation to expand Pennsylvania’s Newborn Child Screening and Follow-up Program by merging the mandatory and supplemental disorder lists so that every baby in the Commonwealth will be screened for every recommended disorder.

Under current law, the Department of Health maintains the newborn screening program with a short list of mandatory screenings and a longer list of optional ones. Some hospitals choose to screen for the optional diseases but many do not, creating a system in which the health of newborns is dependent on where they are born or whether their parents have knowledge of these diseases.

The cost of the mandatory panel is presently paid from the Department of Health’s budget, which is inadequate to add screenings for new treatable diseases. The supplemental panel is often included in a hospital’s bundled birth cost, which is then submitted to insurance.

Rather than rely on the Department of Health budget, my proposal establishes a standard newborn screening fee as is common in other states. The fee will be included as part of the hospital’s billing to insurance that covers both the mandatory and supplemental screening panels.

Federal law mandates the coverage of diseases on the federal screening panel and insurers already cover newborn screening costs for most births. My legislation will standardize the process and ensure every newborn is screened equally and can be diagnosed early in the case of a treatable disease.

This issue was brought to my attention by constituents who tragically lost their young daughter before the age of two. The disease that claimed their daughter’s life was treatable had it been detected early; however, it was not because of Pennsylvania’s deficient newborn screening program. My constituents have since become dedicated and passionate advocates for a more robust newborn screening law so that other babies are able to receive necessary life-saving treatments.

Please join me in cosponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as SB983