Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
California Medicaid Program Spends $400M Annually on Childbirth-Related Care for Undocumented Immigrants, Reports Say
Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, spends more than $400 million annually childbirth-related care -- including pregnancy tests, prenatal care and postnatal checkups -- for undocumented immigrants, according to documents and reports, the Los Angeles Times reports. California in 1989 passed a law that guaranteed prenatal care to women living in poverty, and the state last year began to fund the law with federal funds allocated for health care expenses for working families. According to state reports, Medi-Cal covers childbirth expenses for 100,000 undocumented women each year -- or about one in five births in the state. Medi-Cal covered expenses for 41,240 births in Los Angeles County for undocumented women in 2004, approximately half of the births covered by the program. Gary Wells, CFO of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, said Medi-Cal "pays even more than insurance" for obstetric services. Medi-Cal spends an average of $3,224 for each vaginal birth and $5,153 for each caesarean section birth, according to state estimates. Labor and delivery are considered to be medical emergencies entitled to some federal health insurance programs, but federal officials have not covered prenatal care costs since at least the 1980s, according to the Times. Proponents of prenatal coverage for undocumented immigrants have said that it is more cost-effective to pay for prenatal care than potential complications. A 1985 Institute of Medicine study found that $3 in medical costs were saved for every $1 spent on prenatal care because it reduces complications, such as low birthweight. In Los Angeles, 90% of all pregnant women receive prenatal care, compared with 81% of pregnant women in 1996 (Larrubia, Los Angeles Times, 12/23/06).
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