Healthy Babies or Politics?

Monday, March 1st was not a good day for Nebraska.  On Monday, over 1,500 women and their unborn children lost their access to prenatal care.  For decades Nebraska has been a state that prioritized the health of the mothers and babies in this state.  On Monday, the Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services decided that wasn’t important anymore.  That healthy moms and babies were no longer a Nebraska value.

We don’t agree.  And we hope the Legislature doesn’t either.  As you’ve read and as we’ve discussed on this blog, this problem could have been solved quite easily by the administration and DHHS.  For nearly a year, the state has known that it could continue to provide prenatal coverage to low-income women by covering the unborn child through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  All that is required is a simple state plan amendment.  But they have refused.

Now, thanks to Senator Kathy Campbell, the Legislature can make this right.  Senator Campbell has introduced LB 1110 which would require DHHS to create a program to cover unborn children under CHIP.  This would restore Nebraska’s long-standing policy of providing all low-income mothers and babies with prenatal care, regardless of immigration status.

At the hearing on LB 1110 last Thursday (February 25th), 20 testifiers – doctors, hospitals, advocates, pregnant mothers, pro-life groups and others — talked about the overwhelming evidence of the health and fiscal benefits of prenatal care.  Prenatal care helps to ensure that babies are not born with complications or life-long challenges.  In addition, the icing on the cake is that providing prenatal care, the cost of which is estimated to be about $900, saves nearly $2,300 in postnatal costs for complications in the child’s health.  The fiscal note on LB 1110 showed that if we continue our long-standing policy under CHIP as proposed, the state will save as much as $5 million in general fund dollars just on prenatal care.  Yet, the Governor, through Kerry Winterer, the CEO of DHHS, opposed the bill on the ground that taxpayer dollars should not be used on services going to undocumented women.

Let’s be clear about something.  This is not an immigration issue.  This is about health care and providing a healthy start to all Nebraskans.  The unborn child has no immigration status and when born here will become a U.S. citizen.  Further, as several doctors noted at the hearing, 80% of the benefits of prenatal care go to the unborn child.  Perhaps more importantly, when these children are born they will be eligible for Kids Connection – Nebraska’s health insurance program for kids.  Prenatal care helps to ensure that those babies are born healthy, meaning they are less expensive to treat when they are on Kids Connection, thereby saving taxpayer dollars.

So, if we are really concerned about taxpayers, we will continue this policy.  And if we are really concerned about the health of our children, we will continue this policy.  This is a good policy any way you look at it.  It protects mothers and babies.  It saves money.  It ensures a stronger future for the state.

We cannot and should not allow the opponents of LB 1110 to sacrifice the health of the babies in this state just to score some cheap political points.

PLEASE email the members of the Health and Human Services Committee TODAY. Tell them to preserve prenatal coverage for all low-income women in Nebraska.

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