PRENATAL CARE: Bakersfield Californian Says Keep Medi-Cal Coverage For Immigrants
An editorial in the Bakersfield Californian declares that there are "powerful social, humanitarian and financial reasons why prenatal care for illegal immigrants should continue under Medi-Cal." While Gov. Pete Wilson believes "the prospect of publicly paid-for prenatal care stimulates illegal immigration," the Californian editorial states that "every credible study of both current and historic immigration patterns" shows that immigrants move for "economic betterment," not "subsidized medical care." But even in terms of cost, the editorial contends that prenatal care always has a positive return on investment. For every dollar spent on prenatal care, about $3.38 is saved in "potential medical problems," according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. And when "the time is extended to include critical development age (usually 36 months), the savings jump to $100." The editorial notes that "[l]ifetime Medi-Cal costs for low birth weight babies ... are $32,800," but the "medical care cost for babies carried to term with no problems is only $655." Covering prenatal care also saves money in the long-run by cutting down on emergency medical care that California hospitals are required to provide to residents and illegal immigrants alike.
The Californian editorial notes that in Kern County alone, "the percentage of low birthweight babies under Medi-Cal has dropped 14%" since prenatal coverage began being offered under the program in 1998. But the number of illegal immigrant women seeking prenatal care has declined significantly in the county in recent years. Only 400 are estimated to be receiving the care, "down from 1,000 two years ago and 2,000 in 1993." According to the editorial, women may be avoiding prenatal services "for fear of coming to the attention of immigration authorities in the wake of Proposition 187."
Noting that "a baby is an American citizen" at the moment of birth, the Californian editorial concludes: "These babies are our future. That ought to count for something, even if one throws financial common sense out a political window" (6/21). Click here to read recent news on Gov. Wilson's attempt to cut off prenatal care for illegal immigrants. California Healthline's free, online database is quick and easy to use. Enter keywords to research California health care news going back to 1992!