PIERRE (AP) — Rep. Scott Ecklund said that he welcomed the defeat of his bill to provide prenatal care to noncitizens, saying he expects the issue to be addressed later this session in the state budget.
“We’re hoping it will rise again on the last day,” Ecklund said with a smile.
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to defeat the measure. But several committee members say they agree the issue is important and must be addressed.
The bill provides pregnancy health care for low-income mothers who are in the country illegally or on visas. Supporters say the measure will save money and lives, because prenatal care promotes healthy births.
Deb Bowman, senior adviser to Gov. Dennis Daugaard, encouraged the committee to kill the bill and accept a forthcoming, related provision in the state’s general Medicaid plan.
The bill had been approved by the House and another Senate committee. The Senate Health and Human Services committee referred the bill to appropriations, because the measure would require state and federal Medicaid funds.
The state would request a waiver from the federal government to provide this care. Ecklund said Wyoming and Nebraska already offer this in their Medicaid program.
Supporters of the bill agreed that while it requires funding up front, the state is already paying for the hospitalization of low-income, noncitizen mothers.
“We already, by law, cover the labor and delivery,” Bowman said.
Last year the state delivered 195 such babies.
Supporters said that prenatal care reduces infant deaths and the expensive consequences of premature births and other avoidable complications. Premature babies born at 26 weeks can cost up to a million dollars in the intensive care unit.
“It is an investment in the future of South Dakota,” said David Hewett, president of the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations. “Sometimes you spend a little bit of money to save a lot of money.”
There were no opponents to the bill. Ecklund told the committee that some have objected to providing care for “illegal aliens in our state.”
Upon their birth, babies of noncitizen mothers become citizens of the U.S.
Ecklund said the presence of immigrants illegally in the country is a failure of the federal government that South Dakota has to deal with.
“These people are here,” Ecklund said. “They’re already being born here.”
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