January 29, 2013 — Six months after Nebraska enacted a law restoring prenatal care coverage for low-income women, health clinics are reporting a rise in the percentage of pregnant women seeking first-trimester care, the AP/Omaha World-Herald reports (AP/Omaha World-Herald, 1/28).
In 2010, Nebraska was ordered by the federal government to end Medicaid coverage of prenatal care for low-income women. The new law shifted the coverage to the state's Children's Health Insurance Program.
The law was enacted last spring when state lawmakers overrode a veto by Gov. Dave Heineman (R). The measure applies to low-income women, including about 1,100 undocumented immigrants who meet low-income guidelines and can demonstrate that they live in the state.
Nebraska Sen. Charlie Janssen recently introduced a bill (LB 518) that would repeal the new law. Heineman's budget request also seeks to end funding for the program (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/25).
Effect of New Law
At OneWorld Community Health Center in Omaha, the percentage of pregnant women who request first-trimester care during their first visit increased from about 78% before the coverage was available to 85% during the last four months of 2012.
Kristine McVea, the center's chief medical officer, noted that the percentage of women who sought first-trimester care fell from 82% to 60% when the coverage was revoked. "[W]e had a problem with women not only seeking care late in their pregnancy, but also skipping appointments. They couldn't afford it," she said, adding that the prenatal care law has made a "huge difference in our ability to reach women in that first trimester."
Physicians at the Nebraska Medical Center also have noted an increase in women who proactively seek treatment for pregnancy-related health problems, according to Teresa Berg, a maternal and fetal medicine specialist (AP/Omaha World-Herald, 1/28).