WASHINGTON, DC – Friday Representative Aaron Schock (IL-18) introduced legislation that would increase the availability of lifesaving stem cells found is umbilical cord blood. The Family Cord Blood Banking Act allows Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) to be used to help offset the cost of storing cord blood.
Umbilical cord blood is unique with a high concentration of rich stem cells that can be used to combat various diseases. It is taken from a newborn's umbilical cord immediately after birth, is preserved in a secure location, and may be a source of stem cells for blood relatives of that newborn.
“Cord blood stem cells have shown tremendous value in treating disease. We have examples right here in Illinois of how the value of the stem cells derived from cord blood can be used to improve or save someone’s life. This common sense legislation makes it more affordable for families that want to save these cells for their children,” said Representative Aaron Schock.
Stem cells from umbilical cord blood have been used to treat a wide range of diseases in both adults and children through more than 30,000 transplants worldwide over the last 25 years. In Springfield, Illinois umbilical cord blood stem cells were used to help provide a treatment for Apraxia, a yet uncured speech disorder in which individuals can’t speak even though they know what they want to say.
Grant Apostol from Springfield, was diagnosed with Apraxia at a young age. Thankfully the Apostol’s had banked their son’s cord blood after he was born. When he was 2 ½ years old, Grant had a portion of his cord blood stem cells infused into his blood stream. Not long after the infusion, Grant was able to speak in full sentences and ask questions that he had previously been unable to do. Today Grant is a healthy and active child who is progressing with his peers.
The issue is not a new one for Schock. Back in 2007 during his time in the Illinois General Assembly, Schock supported legislation to allow the Department of Public Health to work with medical providers to make sure pregnant women were informed about umbilical cord blood banking services. That legislation, which was signed into law in August 2007, gave pregnant mothers the ability to make an informed decision on whether or not to participate in public or private umbilical cord blood banking services.
Then in 2009 as a Member of Congress, Schock authored a bipartisan letter to the then-IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman requesting that the IRS allow umbilical cord blood banking to be considered as a qualified medical expense allowing one to use health savings accounts.
The Family Cord Blood Banking Act recognizes umbilical cord blood as a qualified medical expense which can be paid for through Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of non-controversial newborn stem cells that can be used to treat many forms of cancer, blood disorders, immune diseases, and brain injury, as well as diseases like cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.
The cost to store a child’s cord blood stem cells can be as much as $2,000 for collection and processing and up to $150 a year for storage. Allowing families to pay for these costs through health savings accounts allows more families to access these potentially life-saving stem cells.