A look ahead on an issue that all Nebraskans care about, healthy babies.

The Argument for Restoring Prenatal Care
Voices for Children Video
Prenatal Care Timeline

Whether you live out in Western Nebraska or in Omaha, we can all agree that government policies which encourage healthy babies are good for our state.  The problem is that our current policies do not do this.  Various papers across the state reported the sad truth many advocates knew would be the result of a bad policy pushed by Governor Heineman—Nebraska babies are getting sick and dying.

We are told this is a very complicated issue, that it’s not as simple as restoring the prenatal care that was taken away from Nebraskans and illegal immigrants.  We, quite frankly, do not care if it’s complicated.  Our tax dollars pay for our elected leaders to figure out complicated policies. Ensuring that babies are born healthy is a common value that we all share, and it is simply not being reflected by Heineman’s administration.

Governor Heineman continues to hold the line on his prenatal position—he believes that charities can pick up where the state has left off.  He threatened to veto any prenatal bill that would fix the paperwork issue the state is struggling with.  He is trying to over-complicate an issue that could be solved with the stroke of a pen from his hand and the Department of Health and Human Services.

This short-sighted view is yet another example of Heineman’s failed leadership, all in the name of being tough on immigration.  Meanwhile, he has yet to pass any legislation that would punish companies who hire illegal immigrants, even though members of his own party support such legislation.

All we ask is that the elected officials, whose paychecks come from the hard work of taxpayers, do their job.  That is you Governor Heineman, officials at HHS and our State Senators…it is your job to protect Nebraska babies.  Pass a bill, fill out a form or do whatever you need to ensure Nebraska’s babies are born healthy.  We are not looking for excuses or angry rhetoric about the broken immigration system.  All we are asking for is that we help Nebraska babies to be born healthy.

The Nebraskans in this video range from medical professionals, faith leaders, advocates, former Congressional leaders and funders.  Everyone agrees, prenatal care is what is needed for healthy babies.  It is fiscally responsible.  It protects our most vulnerable.  It protects human rights.  It is simply the right thing to do.

Here is the history of women being denied and taken off prenatal care prenatal care in Nebraska:

NOVEMBER 2009: Nebraska officials, from the Governor to the Department of HHS, are told they must fix some paperwork and classification of prenatal coverage in order for the state to continue to get federal money to protect babies and their moms.  Essentially, our state was not following federal law, and the federal government explained how the state could comply.  All we had to do was switch women that are above a certain income level from Medicaid to SCHIP.  No action is taken by Heineman or other officials in his administration.

FEBRUARY 2010: Over 6,000 pregnant women get letters from the Nebraska government telling them they might be kicked off prenatal care.  Then, HHS goes in front of the State Senators and explains that 4,655 Nebraskans will be covered, an additional 115 women need more paperwork verified and 842 women were identified as illegal immigrants and therefore will not get prenatal coverage through Medicaid.

MARCH 2010: Almost 1,600 women (and countless women after them) received letters from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services stating they might be taken off Medicaid, which was giving them and their babies prenatal care.  Doctors started to get calls from concerned moms and advocates started to organize to make sure our state did the right thing and ensured babies would be born healthy.  To break down the numbers, 709 of the almost 1,600 women kicked off prenatal care are legal American citizens and 842 are undocumented.  Later in the month, an additional 43 Nebraskans—American citizens—will also be kicked off prenatal care.

APRIL 2010: Governor Heineman refused to do a simple paperwork fix to get the babies covered under the SCHIP program (the state’s child insurance program) instead of Medicaid, so the issue is punted to the legislature.  Advocates and medical professionals push the State Senators to pass LB 1110.  State Senators are giving into pressure by Heineman behind closed doors to kill the bill.  A sign-on letter with over 1,300 signatures goes to Governor Heineman and the State Senators.

MAY 2010: The bill dies and no further action from Governor Heineman takes places.  Doctors are left shaking their heads.  Advocates promise to push on and document cases of these moms and babies that will be denied care.

JUNE 2010: Voices for Children comes out with an 8-page policy summary of why prenatal care is needed.  The policy summary gives background and recommendations on what the State Senators and the Governor Heineman administration can do to protect babies.  Nebraska leads other states in pre-mature babies (costing families and the state more money) and is behind other states who are now insuring women and their families that make up to $44,000 a year. There is a correlation.

AUGUST 2010: Nebraska Appleseed files a lawsuit against the State of Nebraska to try and reverse the state’s decision to end prenatal care for low-income women.  Heineman and Bruning do not respond to the case.

NOVEMBER 2010: A hearing is held at the capital.  It is clear by the testimony that the decisions by some State Senators and Governor Heineman have had a negative impact on Nebraska babies.  As one leader testified about his/her health clinic in Columbus, “four babies have died in utero, two in the final four weeks of pregnancy. In the previous six years, the clinic had not lost any unborn babies after five months gestation.”  It is unclear if any State Senator will bring up a prenatal bill again in the 2010 legislative session, which begins Jan. 5.