As you might remember, during the last legislative session, a bill was passed to restore prenatal care coverage under Medicaid for all low-income mothers regardless of immigration status or other issues of the mother. A large and diverse coalition of groups came together to support the restoration of this care. Policymakers showed strong support for this policy for two main reasons:
1) It’s cost effective: Money spent on prenatal care results in a net savings in the long term by preventing issues for babies whose care for complications would be covered by the Medicaid program. Further, some serious issues can have costs to other public systems and programs — like education and Social Security Disability.
2) It’s the right thing to do: The main beneficiary of prenatal care is the baby and not the mother. By denying care to moms, the state was penalizing babies who had no role in the choices made by parents prior to their conception.
There’s evidence that this care is already working. A local doctor recently wrote about this policy in the Omaha World-Herald and shared the story of a woman who was eligible for prenatal care coverage under this policy. She had a serious condition that was detected and addressed that could have otherwise resulted in death or serious issues for the baby.
So, you can imagine our surprise when the recent HHS budget proposal included both the elimination of this recently restored coverage and cutting income eligibility for pregnant women under the Medicaid program from 185% of poverty to 133% of poverty.
It’s hard to understand why proposals that are likely to result in higher Medicaid costs in the long-run and can create long term issues for Nebraska kids are being touted as a solution to budget issues. These cuts would neither solve our fiscal issues as a state nor do they represent the values of most Nebraskans that the state legislature affirmed last session.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “penny-wise and pound foolish” and we can’t think of a more appropriate way to decribe these proposed cuts to prenatal care coverage. We hope that our state legislature will continue on the fiscally responsible and ethically sound course that they charted last session and not attempt to balance the budget on the backs of future Nebraska babies.