National WIC Association

The National WIC Association Responds to WSJ Article on WIC Infant Formula Rebates and Program Eligibility

May 4, 2015

In last week's article Makers of Baby Formula Press Their Case on WIC Program, the Wall Street Journal reported on Congress's upcoming vote to reauthorize the WIC program. The article called the WIC infant formula rebates a "money losing venture" for formula manufacturers such as Mead Johnson. According to the article, Mead Johnson would like for eligibility for the WIC program to be tightened so that infant formula manufacturers' WIC sales do not continue to "erode" as participation in WIC increases from year to year.

The National WIC Association disputes the article on several key points and issued a response in a letter to the editor. Here are the key points in Rev. Douglas Greenaway's letter to the editor:

  • Congressionally-mandated, competitively bid infant formula rebates or cost containment prevent infant formula manufacturers from gouging taxpayers, generating $1.8 billion in 2014 in non-tax revenue, which allowed WIC to serve one in five participants that year. Rebates have been relatively constant over time with the average annual rebate paid (1997-2013) increasing just 2.07%.
  • The annual growth in WIC infant participation has been 0.8% (1997-2013). 
  • While Medicaid eligibility thresholds do vary across states, WIC and Medicaid were linked by Congress in 1989 to assure mothers healthy pregnancies and the delivery of healthy babies, saving federal taxpayers.
  • Essential business ingredients of this linkage assure clinic efficiency, simplified and streamlined paperwork, reduced administrative error, and reduced administrative costs – all saving federal taxpayers critical resources.

The NWA's comments on the piece can be viewed here