Ohio loosens baby formula restrictions for lower-income mothers in response to shortage

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine has tweaked a state nutrition program’s rules to try to make it easier for lower-income mothers to get baby formula amid a national product shortage.

On Monday, DeWine announced changes to Ohio’s Women and Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program, a federally funded program that provides free baby formula and food to over 164,000 children and women.

First, DeWine said the federal government has signed off on adding eight additional packaging sizes of Enfamil-branded baby formula to the state’s list of approved products. Currently, only certain product sizes are on the list. The extra sizes will be added on Monday, DeWine said.

Mead Johnson, the manufacturer of Enfamil, is the state’s approved contracted formula vendor. DeWine said the state is also working with Mead Johnson to add additional formula brands to the state’s approved formula list.

Second, DeWine said the state is in the process of asking the federal government to loosen the rules for prescription formulas.

Under current program rules, a mother can only use a doctor’s prescription to get the specific, name-brand formula product the doctor identified. DeWine said state officials want the prescription to also be good for generic, store-brand equivalents so mothers don’t have to get new prescriptions if a particular brand isn’t available.

During an appearance in Cincinnati on Monday, DeWine told reporters the changes are meant to be temporary, but some could end up being permanent.

“Some of these we would hope would be permanent. Some of these, probably, the federal government will pull back once the crisis is over, but let’s get through the crisis, at least,” DeWine said, without specifying which was which, according to a livestream posted by WXIX-TV.

The state doesn’t contract with Abbott Laboratories, the company whose February closure of its Michigan factory helped set off the national shortage. But the shortage at Abbott, which makes Similac products, has made all baby formulas harder to obtain. The Abbott factory, closed after formula tainted by bacteria sickened four infants and killed two, re-opened on Saturday. The company has said it will take three weeks for the products made at the plant to get to consumers.

The WIC program is open to families who make up to 185% of federal poverty guidelines, or $51,338 for a family of four. Women who either are pregnant or who recently gave birth are eligible, as are infants up to 1 year old and children up to 5 years old. In 2021, 33,254 women, 55,503 infants and 70,570 children were enrolled, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

The Enfamil brands that will be added to the Enfamil list are: Enfamil Infant Powder 29.4oz, Enfamil NeuroPro Infant Powder 28.3 oz., Enfamil NeuroPro Infant Powder Box 31.4 oz.., Enfamil Gentlease Powder 27.7oz., Enfamil NeuroPro Gentlease Powder 27.4 oz.,, Enfamil NeuroPro Gentlease Powder Box 30.4 oz., Enfamil AR Powder Box 30.4 oz., and Enfamil Prosobee Powder 20.9 oz.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story

Ohio loosens baby formula restrictions for lower-income mothers in response to shortage

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