State lawmakers have advanced a bill that would restore prenatal care to mothers who lost Medicaid coverage two years ago, including illegal immigrants.
Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln sponsors LB 599, saying that Nebraska’s practice of funding prenatal care of the unborn child of poor women should return, including the unborn child of an illegal immigrant.
“The child will be a U.S. citizen at its birth,” Campbell stated in her opening. “Would we not want that child to be healthy? Would we not want healthy babies?”
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 would be $2.6 million dollars annually. The state’s share would total $654,000.
Speaker of the Legislature, Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk, told colleagues during floor debate the issue presented a tension between the rule of law and a traditional pro-life position. Flood said because the bill would benefit the baby, the issue tilts toward the pro-life position.
“We are a pro-life state and this is a pro-life issue,” Flood said during floor debate. “We have to balance the interests here. We have to look at the equities on both sides. We’re going to pay for the delivery. We’re going to pay for the birth. That child is going to be an American citizen. Let’s provide the prenatal care for low-income women and let’s be pro-life.”
Others, though, counter that state taxpayers shouldn’t be required to provide medical care for illegal immigrants. They discounted the pro-life argument.
Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln told colleagues that the status of the mother does matter.
“On the other side of this, you have this reality that we, by passing LB 599, will be reaching into the pockets of law-abiding citizens to pay for the responsibilities of those who have broken our laws,” Fulton stated. “Perhaps that sounds harsh, but that is what we would be doing.”
Sen. John Nelson of Omaha agreed that it’s excellent to provide prenatal care.
“But the question is, if these are illegal or undocumented people who have come into this country for the purpose of having their children born here and knowing that the delivery and birth is going to be paid for when they go into emergency at the hospital, why is it that we also have to extend that to prenatal care?” Nelson asked.
Gov. Dave Heineman weighed in on the issue prior to the legislative debate. His office sent out an email with a written statement.
“Like many Nebraskans, I am pro-life, but this issue is about illegal immigration. I am strongly opposed to the use of taxpayer funds for benefits for illegal aliens. I support legal immigration, not illegal immigration.
“We should only be using taxpayer funds for legal Nebraska citizens, not for illegal aliens. I am going to fight against LB 599 because it’s not right that government should force legal citizens to pay for benefits for illegal aliens.”
AUDIO: Sen. Kathy Campbell opens legislative debate on LB 599 [5:20]
AUDIO: Speaker Mike Flood speaks on LB 599 [5 min.]
AUDIO: Sen. Tony Fulton speaks on LB 599 [5 min.]