April 12, 2012 — Nebraska legislators on Wednesday voted 31-15 to give final approval to a bill (LB 599) that would restore prenatal care coverage for low-income, undocumented immigrants, the Omaha World-Herald reports (Hammel, Omaha World-Herald, 4/11). In 2010, Nebraska ended Medicaid coverage of prenatal care for nearly 1,600 low-income women, including undocumented immigrants and women who had not complied with participation requirements. The state later restored the coverage for legal residents and women who would not otherwise qualify for Medicaid.
The bill would restore the prenatal care coverage through the state's Children's Health Insurance Program, called Kids Connection (Reuters/Chicago Tribune, 4/11). It would cover 1,100 undocumented immigrants and about 40 pregnant women in state correctional facilities, at an annual cost of about $650,000 in state money and $1.9 million in federal funding.
Wednesday's vote came on the second-to-last day before the end day of the legislative session, likely setting up a late-stage clash with Gov. Dave Heineman (R), who opposes benefits for undocumented immigrants (Omaha World-Herald, 4/11).
Heineman in a press conference on Tuesday said the bill would give undocumented immigrants a larger financial break than middle-class taxpayers. He said he would take the allowed five days to decide whether to sign the measure (Reuters/Chicago Tribune, 4/11).
Lawmakers would need at least 30 votes to override a veto. Speaker Mike Flood scheduled the Legislature's last day for April 18 to ensure lawmakers have time to attempt to override possible vetoes of the prenatal care bill and other measures (Schulte, AP/WBNS, 4/11).
Push for Support
State lawmakers have launched an effort to garner public support for the legislation, including press conferences in neonatal intensive care units (Omaha World-Herald, 4/11). Supporters have noted that the state has spent $800,000 -- more than the total cost of the bill -- since 2010 to fund care for one child whose mother did not receive proper prenatal care (Reuters/Chicago Tribune, 4/11).