IMMIGRANT PRENATAL CARE: Op-Ed Piece Attacks Wilson Plan
Writing in today's San Diego Union-Tribune, Joanne Spetz, economist and research fellow at the San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California, criticizes as fiscally unsound Gov. Pete Wilson's proposal to cut off prenatal care for undocumented immigrants. Spetz charges that suspending Medi-Cal prenatal benefits for this population will not achieve either of the objectives claimed by its supporters. First, Spetz says, the bill's passage would not deter undocumented immigrants from coming across the border, as the governor maintains, because "[s]everal studies of Mexican women who gave birth in the United States found that their primary motivation is obtaining U.S. citizenship for their children," not free prenatal care. Secondly, Spetz disputes proponents' contention that eliminating prenatal care will save the taxpayers money. As children born in California are automatically U.S. citizens, any health care costs incurred by unhealthy infants will be borne by Medi-Cal. "Numerous studies have shown that the cost of prenatal care is more than recovered by reductions in the cost of caring for newborns born prematurely, with low birth weight, or with illnesses that could have been prevented," she writes. Spetz contends that for "every $1 spent on prenatal care, we save from $1.00 to $9.40 in medical expenses down the line."
The Middle Of The Road
Spetz argues for a "compromise solution" to cut costs without denying cost-effective care. She writes that perhaps prenatal care could be limited to a "standard 14-visit prenatal care program" for mothers at high risk of complications during pregnancy and a nine-visit schedule for low-risk pregnancies. Spetz concludes that "[l]ess care is better than no care -- especially when we all pay the cost" of inadequate precautionary treatment for undocumented immigrant mothers (2/25).