Learn About the WIC Infant Formula Rebate System
The WIC Infant Formula Rebate System was created to provide financial relief to state WIC programs attempting to serve low-income women and their infants. As infant formula prices began to rise at a very high cost in the late 1980s, Tennessee proposed a system of competitive bidding in which infant formula manufacturers submitted rebate bids in exchange for a contract with the WIC program. This contract assured manufacturers that their WIC approved formula would be on grocery store shelves all throughout the state. This meant more business from both WIC and non-WIC participants.
As more states began to follow this method, the federal government created regulations that managed the operations of these rebate programs. Today, each state contracts with a formula manufacturer for infants at nutritional risk. These WIC approved formula brands consist of milk-based products and soy-based products. In fact, manufacturers awarded through the program are required to create a WIC baby formula that is soy-based. For every can that is sold to a WIC participant, the program receives a substantial portion of the money back. Beneficiaries and potential program applicants can read the following sections below to learn more about how the program operates and the different types of infant formula offered through the program.
What is the purpose of the WIC Infant Formula Rebate System?
The purpose of the WIC Infant Formula Rebate System is to provide WIC programs the opportunity to continue the distribution of infant formula and food benefits to impoverished infants. How does this work? For every WIC approved formula purchased, State agencies receive rebates or money back by the manufacturers. This revenue is then used to distribute more WIC benefits to qualifying mothers and their infants. These WIC participants are typically low-income and unable to afford the high costs of baby formula.
The WIC program defines these participants as being at nutritional risk, meaning they may face malnourishment due to several reasons. Impoverished infants without WIC formula benefits may lack sufficient nutrition or endure water intoxication due to over-diluted formula. WIC approved formulas are designed to combat the obstacles that underserved mothers face. For example, the program offers ready-to-feed formula to low-income mothers who do not have safe water supply.
While the program encourages breastfeeding, it also understands that these methods may not be possible for all mothers. By providing increased access to WIC baby formula, infants are able to reach their full growth potential.
How to Choose a WIC Infant Formula Manufacturer
All state agencies participating in the WIC Infant Formula Rebate System must create a competitive bidding system in which the manufacturer offering the best low-cost products or rebates is awarded. State agencies that are excluded from creating a cost-containment system include those that serve WIC infant food packages through home delivery and direct distribution delivery systems.
State agencies that provide food instruments, such as vouchers and EBT cards, to purchase WIC formula from retail stores must solicit manufacturer bids. These agencies can invite manufacturers to submit bids through single solicitation or separate solicitation. Single solicitation is typically the most common way to request bids for generic brands of milk-based formulas that are suitable for most infants.
However, these WIC approved formulas manufacturers must agree to offer soy-based formulas as well after being awarded. On the other hand, separate solicitation is open to establishing two distinct contracts- with a soy-based brand and milk-based brand.
Learn About the Types of WIC Approved Formulas
You may be wondering “What formula does WIC cover?” There are a variety of WIC approved formulas offered in various states. While these formulas ultimately depend on which brand is awarded in your state, the WIC program requires that these formulas come in several feeding forms. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to receive WIC formula that is concentrated liquid, powder or ready-to-feed. You will most likely receive concentrated liquid or powder unless you do not have adequate water or proper refrigeration. In this case, you will receive ready-to-feed formula.
Many states will let you choose between iron-fortified milk-based and soy-based WIC baby formulas for your infant. Iron-fortified infant formula offers the most important nutrients that are crucial for your infant’s first year. If your baby cannot process infant formula made from cow’s milk, the WIC program recommends using a soy-based formula from your state’s WIC infant formula list. Furthermore, there are hypoallergenic, lactose-free and low-iron formulas. While choosing a formula covered by WIC seems simple, there may be cases where you need a non-contract brand to fit the medical needs of your infant.
The WIC program may provide you with a subsidy for a formula that is not on your WIC infant formula list in some cases. However, you must provide proof of a medical condition, such as an immune system disorder. This requires submitting medical documentation that outlines your infant’s medical diagnosis. These special infant formulas may include therapeutic formulas, such as Similac Neosure.
How to Obtain a WIC Infant Formula
To obtain a WIC infant formula, you must first apply to the WIC program at the appropriate state department administering the program. This will require that you meet certain WIC eligibility requirements, such as being low-income and in need of nutritious foods. If you are accepted into the program, you may receive WIC formula in various ways. If you are applying to a WIC program that distributes EBT cards, checks or vouchers that can be used at retail stores, you are participating in the rebates program.
You must contact your state department and set up a WIC appointment to receive these benefits. Once you are accepted, you will receive a WIC infant formula list with the types of formula you can obtain with your vouchers or EBT card. If you would like to obtain a special formula, you must obtain a WIC medical referral form for infants. This form must include your infant’s medical diagnosis and his or her medical provider for verification purposes.