Prenatal care for pregnant non-citizens approved

2014-02-27T06:00:00Z 2014-02-27T07:53:07Z Prenatal care for pregnant non-citizens approvedBob Mercer Journal correspondent Rapid City Journal
February 27, 2014 6:00 am  • 

PIERRE | South Dakota legislators deadlocked last year on providing prenatal care to pregnant women who are poor and not U.S. citizens.

One year and 195 births later, the issue is back and the outcome seems just as uncertain.

The House of Representatives voted 46-22 in favor on Feb. 10. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 4-3 Wednesday to endorse the legislation’s passage and referred it to the Senate Appropriations Committee for budgeting purposes.

The average cost of prenatal services to pregnant women under South Dakota’s Medicaid program is about $3,400, according to state officials. That is about 80 times less than the average cost for a prematurely born baby in South Dakota.

The goal of expanding the prenatal services is to help the mothers and children be healthier and reduce premature deliveries. Premature birth is the leading cause of death for infants in the state.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard supports HB 1158, according to Deb Bowman, one of his senior aides.

But Bowman recommended the bill be sent to the appropriations committee because provisions of the state Medicaid plan typically aren’t put in state law for flexibility reasons.

“I don’t want to hurt the bill at all,” she said.

Normally, Medicaid help isn’t available for people who are in the U.S. illegally. But if the children are born here they become citizens and are eligible for government programs.

Sen. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge, asked how mothers will get over their fear against coming forward.

“I wish I had a really great answer for you, senator. I don’t,” Bowman said.

Federal law, however, prohibits Medicaid providers and officials from reporting people if they’re here illegally, she said.

The bill’s prime sponsor is a doctor, Rep. Scott Ecklund, R-Brandon. He said statistics show there will be large savings if there is more prenatal care.

“My goal is to get lives saved,” Ecklund said. “We’re losing six kids a year that are U.S. citizens if you look at statistics by not doing this.

“This does not make a statement on either side of the immigration debate,” he said. “I am not for illegal immigration.”

The House passed a similar bill in 2013 on a 39-28 vote.

But the legislation was changed by the Senate to provide broader Medicaid coverage to pregnant women with incomes up to 140 percent of the federal poverty level. The House and the Senate couldn’t agree and the legislation died.

House Democratic leader Bernie Hunhoff of Yankton testified Wednesday for Ecklund’s bill and complimented the Daugaard administration for its efforts on infant mortality.

“You’ve got a bill before you today that can make a difference,” he said.

Rep. Manny Steele, R-Sioux Falls, an illegal-immigrant opponent, also spoke up for the bill.

“We’re going to be responsible because this baby is going to be born here,” said Steele, adding that the legislation is logical as a matter of compassion and as a savings to the public.

No opponents testified.

Sen. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City, proposed that the legislation go to appropriations without recommendation.

“We really do not know how much this is going to cost,” he said. “I think that would be a right move.”

A fiscal note hasn’t been prepared yet by the Legislative Research Council. The 2013 fiscal note estimated costs at $241,777 in state general funds and $286,119 in federal Medicaid funds.

Bowman explained the expanded Medicaid coverage would be only for pregnancy-related matters and wouldn’t pay for unrelated health problems such as a broken arm.

All seven members of the health committee agreed with sending the bill to appropriations. They split on whether to endorse it. Jensen’s motion for no-recommendation fell short 3-4. The committee then voted 4-3 to endorse its passage.

“We want this to go through. We just need to do the details on it,” said Sen. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, chairwoman of the Senate health committee.

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. peppermint1900
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    peppermint1900 - February 27, 2014 6:51 pm
    Why is it all the illegal people reap all the benefits from tax dollars and I have to pay for everything? This world is really upside down!!
  2. trustno1
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    trustno1 - February 27, 2014 5:31 pm
    I think that the legislature has a lot of nerve to refuse the federal funds to fully expand Medicaid for US citiziens with limited income, then even consider extending Medicaid to people who are here illegally. Put me in twith the heartless crowd, but it seems to me that we should look out for American citizens first, then if anything is left over make it available to illegals.
  3. 1910147
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    1910147 - February 27, 2014 2:28 pm
    Where are all these resources? If I'm not mistaken don't we $17,000,000,000,000, + debt, maybe we should pay that off first?? 101
  4. Dog Soldier
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    Dog Soldier - February 27, 2014 10:26 am
    Seems that republican rational is that every unborn is sacred from conception to birth, but then if the child dies, it just God's will.
  5. Dogwoman
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    Dogwoman - February 27, 2014 9:49 am
    We have plenty of resources in this country to take care of our people. We need to get over the hateful and dehumanizing "other" syndrome, and start taking care of each other, instead of putting our resources into the billionaires and corporations. I want my country back. The one that used to regulate corporations and protect people, not the other way around. Start first with newborn babies and pregnant woman. It seems rather obvious if you have any compassion whatsoever. Everyone needs health care. Communicable diseases say so.
  6. Black Hawk
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    Black Hawk - February 27, 2014 9:25 am
    You don't have to buy insurance (even with a hand out). All you have to do is pay a penalty. In 2014 that is $95/adult or $7.92/month. In 2015 that increases to $325 or $27.08/ month. In 2016 it increases to $695 or $57.92/month. After that they are tied to the cost of living index. I don't know why you would want to go without insurance but here's the alternative provided. I don't know you well enough to say if you're heartless or no but the logic of saving our great state money should excite you.
  7. dzrgrl
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    dzrgrl - February 27, 2014 8:49 am
    Why does this not bother anyone else. I'm 56 year old female, who is mandated (forced) to buy insurance that I can't afford even with the credit (hand out), that will probably make me (!) buy pre natal care coverage, but our great state wants to pay for illegal aliens to receive. I'm not heartless, but you know the money comes from us, and I truly think this was not the change people were thinking of when they voted for it!!
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