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MEETINGS PLANNED TO DISCUSS CHANGES TO WASHINGTON STATE'S BABY FORMULA PROGRAM

 MEETINGS PLANNED TO DISCUSS CHANGES
 TO WASHINGTON STATE'S BABY FORMULA PROGRAM
 OLYMPIA, Wash., Nov. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- The state next year is likely to select a single supplier of infant formula for the nearly 32,000 infants served under Washington's Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Food Program (WIC), the Washington State Department of Health said today.
 WIC clients, health care providers, grocers, pharmacists and others who may be affected by the selection of a single formula provider are encouraged to attend one of three public meetings to discuss the program:
 -- Nov. 26, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., at the Women's Health Center,
 2811 Tieton Drive in Yakima;
 -- Nov. 27, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., at the Spokane Health District
 Office, West 1101 College Avenue in Spokane; and
 -- Dec. 3, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., at the Pierce County Health
 Department, 3629 South D Street in Tacoma.
 WIC is a nutrition assistance and preventive health program that provides food, along with nutrition education, referrals for health care and other services to low-income pregnant and breast-feeding women and children up to age five.
 Under a single formula provider system, WIC parents would be required to use only one brand of formula. The change to a single provider would save $2 million to $4 million annually. These savings, in turn, could be used to serve some of the 22,000 potential clients who have been turned away since last January due to a lack of funds.
 The current system, in place for two years, provides about $725,000 per month in rebates, nearly $9 million each year. These rebates permit the program to increase by about 15,000 the number of women and children in the WIC program.
 The State Department of Health spends about $7.5 million annually on infant formula under the WIC program, nearly 20 percent of the total $37 million budget for WIC. Of this $37 million, about $34 million is provided by the federal government.
 A new federal law mandates that states establish formula rebate programs that provide the greatest saving to WIC programs.
 Currently, clients may buy any one of four brands of infant formula and the State receives a rebate from the manufacturer. The clients pay for the formula -- and other food items -- with WIC checks redeemed in the 800 contracted grocery stores and pharmacies around the state.
 Under a single provider system, clients would be required to purchase the brand of formula provided by the selected manufacturer unless an alternative formula is prescribed by a physician for a specific medical condition. One manufacturer would contract with the State Department of Health to pay back (rebate) a portion of the wholesale price for each can of infant formula purchased by WIC clients.
 Current infant formula contracts expire in June 1992. Later this year, the state health agency will solicit new contract proposals from infant formula companies.
 WIC staff from the state health agency will conduct the meetings in Yakima, Spokane and Tacoma. Among the topics to be discussed are:
 -- Ways to best educate WIC clients about the possible change and
 how to handle client complaints;
 -- Effects of the possible change on health care professionals and
 retailers and ways to minimize their inconvenience; and
 -- The exemption policy for children with medical risks.
 For more information, contact the State Department of Health at 800-841-1410.
 -0- 11/22/91
 /CONTACT: Dean R. Owen, 206-753-3934, or Pat Arredondo, 206-586-3892, both of the Washington State Department of Health/ CO: Washington State Department of Health ST: Washington IN: SU:


JH-LM -- SE010 -- 6586 11/22/91 18:50 EST
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Date:Nov 22, 1991
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