NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Would Better Screening Of Newborns Save Money?

May 24, 2000

Every state mandates testing of newborns for up to eight metabolic disorders which, if not discovered and treated, could lead to mental retardation and even death. Yet 22 other dangerous conditions are not being screened.

  • Under regulations going back 30 years, many state health departments insist that testing be done at government-run labs -- with parents often paying for the tests.
  • Even though the technology exists to conduct simultaneous tests for 20 or so disorders, states still use the one-test-at-a-time approach -- which drives up costs.
  • New Jersey charges $34 for six tests.
  • A private concern, Pittsburgh-based Neo Gen Screening, charges only $25 for 30 tests -- and does it faster than state health departments.

Edwin W. Naylor, the certified clinical geneticist who founded Neo Gen, claims that "states have a vested interest in maintaining status quo." He's had to go from hospital to hospital to offer supplemental testing over and above what the state labs do.

But he has had some successes in hospitals in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Ohio could be next, if the legislature agrees to go along with open bids for screening.

Meanwhile, Naylor has found powerful advocates among parents groups, which have been bombarding talk shows and have sent 8,000 letters to U.S. health departments.

Source: Chandrani Ghosh, "Medical Breakdown," Forbes, May 29, 2000.


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