State lawmakers brush aside a veto threat and approve the prenatal bill with one more vote than necessary to override a veto.
Whether that vote stands up will be known next week, when the legislature convenes for the final day of this session.
LB 599 extends Medicaid coverage to the prenatal needs of the poor. Gov. Dave Heineman has promised to veto it, because the coverage extends to illegal immigrants as well. Nebraska had provided prenatal care through Medicaid until 2010 when federal officials objected. Approximately 1,600 women lost coverage, more than 1,000 were in the country illegally. Under the bill, coverage would be restored at the start of July. The total cost is estimated at $2.6 million dollars annually. The state’s share is projected to total $654,000 per year.
“Prenatal care matters and it matters for a lifetime,” Sen. Kathy Campbell, the bill’s sponsor, stated during a news conference at the Capitol. “An important point that we all need to remember is that we are already spending funds for these babies. We spend funds for their labor and delivery. We spend funds if they have complications and we spend funds for long-time and long-term health conditions.”
Campbell and other supporters have been careful to couch the issue in terms of its implications for an unborn child and for the state budget. Many supporters have called the bill a pro-life issue, because it focuses on the health of the unborn child. Others have stated it makes fiscal sense, because prenatal care costs less and often prevents costly post-delivery complications.
Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island, who managed acute care hospitals over a 30 year career, told reporters during the news conference it makes sense to care for the mother during pregnancy.
“I can tell you from those three decades of service, you hate to hear that you’ve had a pregnant mother come to the emergency room to deliver who has had no prenatal care,” Gloor stated. “Because you know that baby is likely to be born underweight and underweight babies spend time in intensive care units until their stabilized and have enough weight to go home.”
The governor has rejected claims that the bill is pro-life.
“It is about illegal immigration. It is about fairness,” Heineman stated in a news conference earlier this week. “Nebraskans are telling me, ‘You know what, I pay my taxes. I obey the laws and now you want to use my hard-earned tax dollars for illegals.’ They object to that.”
Heineman said he will veto the bill and work to sustain the veto.
“I want to do everything I can to convince them not override us. I would ask them to listen to the people of Nebraska,” Heineman says. “I think, as the governor of this state, the person who travels this state more often than anyone else, I have a pretty good sense where Nebraskans are at. And, again, it’s on the use of taxpayer funds for illegal immigration.”
The legislature had scheduled to meet for the final day of the 60-day session tomorrow. Speaker Mike Flood of Norfolk has postponed the final day until next Wednesday, the 18th, so the legislature can consider any overrides of the governor’s vetoes.
AUDIO: News conference held by supporters of LB 599 [6 min.]