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25 for 25: Prenatal Care

We are commemorating our 25th Anniversary with 25 posts about our history and accomplishments between now and the Spotlight Gala on September 15.  Join us for a celebration of Voices for Children and all of the organizations, lawmakers, and individuals who have supported our work on behalf of children.  For details, visit voicesforchildren.com/spotlight-gala.

At Voices for Children, we believe that all children deserve the best possible start in life.  Over the last few decades, there has been growing recognition that the things that impact moms and babies during pregnancy play an important role in helping children succed. Prenatal care is an important tool for moms and babies during pregnancy to help improve outcomes for kids at birth and beyond.

In 2010, Nebraska took a step backwards in ensuring access to prenatal care by administratively eliminating Medicaid coverage for prenatal care for some moms — including those who were incarcerated and who were undocumented but whose babies would soon be citizens.

This decision was not only contrary to best practices in health policy, but also ignored significant evidence that prenatal care saves more money than it costs by preventing health issues that can be very costly to treat at birth.

Voices for Children worked with others to create a strong coalition of partners and resources (many of which can be found on www.babiesbornhealthy.com) highlighting the importance of and cost savings associated with prenatal care.  A bill to restore this coverage made it to the floor of the legislature in 2010, but it was ultimately pulled from consideration due to a perceived lack of adequate support. Later in 2010, Voices for Children released an issue brief highlighting all the relevant research in favor of prenatal care.

A bill to restore prenatal care was re-introduced by Senator Kathy Campbell in 2011, but didn’t advance from committee during the first year of the legislative session.  As the 2012 legislative session approached, Voices for Children internally discussed the ongoing importance of the restoration of prenatal care and approached the upcoming session with the clarity of needing to do everything in our power to keep attention on this issue in the hopes of spurring policy change.

To that end, Voices for Children enlisted Dr. Bryan Williams, a researcher from Emory University in Atlanta, to come to Nebraska and meet with policy makers, partners, and others to present his research on the connection between gestational age (the week in which a baby is born) and early academic achievement.  Dr. William’s research found that babies born too soon are much more likely to perform poorly on standardized tests in the first grade.  Prenatal care is one tool that can prevent babies from being born too soon.

Voices for Children then worked with partners to organize a press conference on restoring prenatal care.  The bill to restore coverage ultimately advanced from committee, was passed by the legislature, vetoed by Governor Heinemann, and finally, the veto was overridden by 30 members of the legislature.

In July of this year, prenatal care coverage for all low-income Nebraska moms was restored in the Medicaid program.

We like to say that “victories for kids don’t happen by accident”, and the restoration of prenatal care is a good example of that.  The restoration of this care took the hard work and commitment of Voices for Children and other partners and is a good example of why we work to speak on behalf of children, who have virtually no influence over political processes that can impact their well-being.

As we enter our 25th year, we can be proud of this victory for kids that helps ensure that every Nebraska baby gets the best possible start in life from the very beginning.



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