JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers are proposing to boost spending at a state health laboratory in hopes of speeding up the results of newborn blood screenings that test for dozens of health conditions.
A budget plan pending in the House would add about $160,000 for the state public health laboratory to conduct newborn screenings on Saturdays and expand a courier service to Sundays.
Missouri tests infants for 79 health conditions, but those tests currently are run only Monday through Friday.
Time can be critical when addressing some potentially life-threatening ailments.
By conducting newborn screenings on Saturdays, "this will not only help save lives, it will also save the state millions of dollars in potential medical costs," Rep. Sheila Solon, R-Blue Springs, told The Kansas City Star.
The additional money was inserted into the budget last week by House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood. The full House is expected to debate the budget when lawmakers return to the Capitol next week after their annual spring break.
Solon cited a report last year by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that showed Missouri ranked poorly among states in how quickly the newborn blood samples reach laboratories. More than 11 percent of the nearly 66,000 newborn blood samples taken in 2012 took five days or more to reach the Missouri testing laboratory.
Many experts consider that to be too slow; an infant could be well over a week old before results are available. For certain disorders, the wait could be life-altering.
"Early identification leads to early treatment and leads to improved outcomes," said Sarah Gordon, a pediatrician from Jefferson City.
Solon also is sponsoring legislation that would require hospitals to designate employees responsible for their newborn screening programs. Her legislation would require the samples to be delivered to the state lab within 24 hours after they are collected. The bill is pending in a House committee.