Neb. Lawmakers Advance Bill Restoring State-Funded Prenatal Care for Undocumented Immigrants Over Gov.'s Objections

April 5, 2012 — Nebraska senators on Wednesday voted 29-16 to advance a bill (LB 599) that would restore prenatal care coverage for low-income pregnant women, many of whom are undocumented immigrants, despite opposition from Gov. Dave Heineman (R), the Omaha World-Herald reports.

In 2010, Nebraska ended Medicaid coverage of prenatal care for nearly 1,600 low-income women. The bill would restore the prenatal care coverage for such women through the state's Children's Health Insurance Program, called Kids Connection. The bill would cost $655,000 in state money and $1.9 million in federal tax dollars (Stoddard/Hammel, Omaha World-Herald, 4/5).

On Tuesday, state senators voted 30-16 to give first-round approval to the measure. Sens. Kathy Campbell and Mike Flood led the push for the legislation, arguing that restoring the funds is necessary to protect children's lives and would save taxpayers money in the long-term. Campbell noted that a lack of prenatal care for one immigrant could total more than $800,000 in health care expenses for her child's medical complications later on (Hammel [1], Omaha World-Herald, 4/4).

On Wednesday, Heineman singled out Flood for acting as a "leader" in the effort to pass the bill. The governor criticized Flood for supporting legislation that he said would increase the burden on local taxpayers by making Nebraska a "magnet" for undocumented immigrants who seek prenatal care. In a letter to Flood, Heineman wrote that "unless you and the Legislature reverse course, the legacy of this session will be one in which illegals were given preferential treatment over legal Nebraska residents" (Hammel [2], Omaha World-Herald, 4/4).

Flood, an abortion-rights opponent, acknowledged that undocumented immigration is a concern, but not as important as securing access to prenatal vitamins, ultrasounds and health care providers for pregnant women. He also said that there is no evidence to support the argument that pregnant immigrants would move to Nebraska just for prenatal care (Schulte, AP/Ledger Independent, 4/5). "The unborn child should not be punished for the actions of his or her parents," Flood said, adding, "We should protect the life of an unborn child whenever possible" (Hammel [1], Omaha World-Herald, 4/4).