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Rep. Gruenberg Introduces Bill to Save Newborn Lives

For the cost of a diaper change, screening for congenital heart defects saves lives

Today, Rep. Max Gruenberg (D-Anchorage) introduced legislation that will help save infants’ lives.  The legislation (HB184) will require that all infants born in health care facilities be screened for critical congenital heart defects.

The bill is modeled after legislation that has passed in eight other states.  On the day that the law went into effect in New Jersey, heart defect screening detected an abnormal result in a newborn baby boy.  Subsequent medical procedures saved his life.

“Screening for defects saves babies’ lives,” said Rep. Gruenberg.  “Parents of newborn infants should be able to learn as quickly as possible if their baby has a life threatening illness or heart defect.  These tests will go a long way towards helping these kids lead happy and healthy lives.”

The State of Alaska already performs dozens of tests on newborns to screen for other diseases, including phenylketonuria and cystic fibrosis.  The screening for heart defects will be done by putting monitors on the baby’s hand and foot.  The cost of the screening is about the same as the cost of changing a diaper in the hospital’s nursery. 

It is estimated that 1 in 100 babies are born with heart defects. Heart disease kills more babies in their first year of life than any other birth defect.

House Bill 184 has been referred to the House Health and Social Services Committee for consideration.  For more information please contact Rep. Gruenberg’s office at (907) 465-4940.

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