Montana WIC Program Agrees To New Infant Formula Rebate Contract

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Montana Women, Infants and Children program has entered into a new infant formula rebate contract, but with a different company.

The new contract, set to begin Oct. 1, 2007, was awarded to Abbott Laboratories, the parent company of Ross Products.

According to Joan Bowsher, Montana WIC Director for DPHHS, the most noticeable change will be the switch to Ross formula under the brand name of Similac and Isomil. The new formula choices include Similac Advance, Similac Sensitive, Similac Sensitive RS and Isomil Advance Soy.

Bowsher expects a smooth transition for those still using Mead Johnson, the formula offered under the previous contract. "Almost all healthy infants can drink a standard infant formula, regardless of brand, without having any kind of problem with it," she said.

WIC checks for Mead Johnson formula will continue to be used until that contract expires. Checks issued reflecting the conversion to Ross formula cannot be cashed until Oct. 1, Bowsher notes.

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Consumers aren't alone in adapting to the change. State WIC program employees have been notifying grocers, doctors, and hospitals. And, staff at the local level is being educated on the new formulas.

In Montana, the program is offered through 27 local agencies with services available to participants in all 56 counties and seven reservations. In addition, over 225 grocery stores accept WIC checks.

The rebate program will function the same under Ross as it did with Mead Johnson. Every time a WIC participant purchases one of the designated Similac or Isomil cans of formula, the state is credited with a rebate by Ross. Last year, the program received monthly rebate checks totaling just over $4 million. That money is used to bolster additional WIC food benefits, allowing more eligible people into the program.

The formula rebate opportunity is available to Montana due to its affiliation with the Western States Contracting Alliance where several states, together as one large group, sign a contract agreeing to use the same infant formula in their WIC programs. In return, the states are awarded a rebate. "Without the infant formula rebate, Montana would not be able to serve the number of current participants," Bowsher added.

Last year, the average monthly caseload was 20,156, including 4,711 women, 4,369 infants, and 11,076 children.

The program helps low-income families who meet the program qualifications. To qualify, a woman must be pregnant, breastfeeding, or recently had a baby. Age eligibilty for infants is birth to 12 months, and a child up to five years old. Participants must be state residents and they must have been determined by a health professional to be at nutritional or medical risk.

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