Voices for Children is in opposition to LB 518 which would repeal a bill enacted last year to restore prenatal care for all low-income Nebraska babies. Research continues to support the fact that prenatal care is both essential to healthy birth outcomes and cost-effective when compared to the cost of treating a baby born with complications. Lack of prenatal care can result in lifelong health issues and even stillbirth. When a baby is born with complications, the state is responsible for their care under the Medicaid program for families who are income eligible. The primary and most significant benefits of prenatal care are for the baby, which current policy recognizes by covering the unborn child and not the mother.
Nebraska recognized the importance of prenatal care and provided this care for decades regardless of the legal status or other issues of the mother. In 2010, the state took a step backwards by eliminating care for approximately 1,500 low-income babies. For some, this care was later restored but there still remained women in the state unable to access prenatal care.
In 2012, the legislature recognized that the restoration of this coverage made good fiscal and moral sense and voted to restore prenatal care for all low-income Nebraska babies. This decision was consistent with Nebraska values and recognized the cost-effectiveness of providing this care.
Every $1 spent on prenatal care can save between $2.57 and $3.38 in later costs by avoiding complications that can be preventable like prematurity and low birth weight. Babies born too soon or too small can require often require increased hospitalization including time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), at a cost ranging from$1,000 to $2,500 per day. In contrast, the cost of prenatal care is around $2,000 over the course of the average pregnancy.
We urge the Health and Human Services committee to reaffirm its commitment to the sound policy reinstated last legislative session and indefinitely postpone LB 518.