(NASHVILLE, TN), January 3, 2012 – State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) today introduced legislation that offers low-income mothers an incentive to seek necessary prenatal care for their unborn infants. SB 2173 would establish a pilot project to determine the effect on infant mortality of providing low-income mothers with $50 for each prenatal visit during pregnancy. The pilot project will be administered by the Department of Health in the three zip codes in Shelby County with the highest rates of infant mortality.
The legislation is the eleventh in a series of announcements by Kelsey in his “12 for ’12” initiative for the next legislative session, which is set to reconvene a week from today.
“The problem of too many babies dying before their first birthday is one of the greatest tragedies in our state. We have to make a change in our proposed solutions to the problem,” said Sen. Kelsey.
Tennessee has a higher infant mortality rate than 42 other countries around the world. The infant mortality rate in Shelby County is 12.6 deaths per 1000 births. That number is almost twice the national average and 50% higher than the state average. The average infant mortality rate for the worst three zip codes in Shelby County is 21.1 deaths per 1000 births.
Prenatal care is already offered for free to all mothers in Tennessee through TennCare; however, it is not being widely utilized. This bill will help encourage utilization of free prenatal care in the zip codes where it is most needed.
Kelsey’s proposed pilot program would be administered by the Department of Health and target the three worst zip codes in Shelby County. According to a recent Shelby County Department of Health report, those zip codes are 38103, 38016, and 38114. The Department is directed to record the effects of the incentive on the infant mortality rate these zip codes.
Kelsey said the bill will not only help babies receive a healthy start in life but will also save money for taxpayers. TennCare can expect to pay approximately $100,000 in medical expenses for every prematurely born child, with extreme cases costing us much as $1 million.
“The human and financial costs of infant mortality in Shelby County are staggering,” said Senator Kelsey. “Every child deserves a chance at a fulfilling and healthy life.” concluded Kelsey.