Medicaid-Funded Prenatal Care for Immigrants a ‘Legal Conundrum’
The New York Times on Saturday featured a story regarding the recent federal appeals court ruling that declared pregnant immigrant women residing illegally in the United States ineligible for Medicaid-provided prenatal care. The Times reports, "For the state, the prenatal care ruling strikes at the heart of a legal conundrum." While the pregnant women are ineligible for "federal benefits of any kind, their babies will be citizens by birth" and will be eligible for Medicaid "as soon as they are born." But the court ruled that a fetus was "not entitled to anything before birth," and that to "assert otherwise would be to suggest that a fetus had certain rights, [the court] said, and would thus invite tampering with Roe v. Wade," the Times reports. New York Democrats want full prenatal care coverage for immigrant women to be paid for with state funds, but Gov. George Pataki (R) has not made a final decision. The Bush administration recently drafted a policy that would permit states to make fetuses eligible for medical coverage under their CHIP programs. The policy is laid out in an "undated" draft letter to state officials from Dennis Smith, who supervises the CHIP program at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (formerly HCFA). According to the New York Times, the letter states that HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson will propose that "an unborn child" may qualify as a "targeted low-income child" eligible for the CHIP program (Sengupta, New York Times, 7/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.