Local News

House Budget Eliminates Prenatal Care For Many Women

Posted April 21, 2003 4:34 a.m. EDT

— Giving children the best start possible has been a goal of state lawmakers for years. But a program that helps give children a boost before they're even born is under fire from those lawmakers.

Medicaid has taken a $2.2 million cut in the House budget.

Lawmakers cut the income eligibility rating from 185 percent of the federal poverty level to 150 percent. That leaves 11,000 mothers-to-be and their children without medical coverage.

Pregnant women who undergo prenatal care keep both themselves and their unborn child healthy.

To Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of health care to pregnant women, the budget cut is devastating.

"During prenatal care, if there is some sort of infection or some sort of complication, a provider could catch it early enough to prevent any sort of birth defect," said Paige Johnson of Planned Parenthood. "Because women who are qualified for Medicaid during pregnancy, after they give birth, their children are qualified for Medicaid up to a year. So this would also deny Medicaid coverage for the children."

The House budget now goes to the Senate, where the Medicaid cut may get a second look.

"While we'll be making tough choices, certainly this is one I would like us to revisit and look at very carefully," said Winston-Salem Democrat Linda Garrou, one of the co-chairs of the powerful Budget Committee. "I think the more careful we can be to provide prenatal care, the better chance we have of having healthy children."

The Senate took its first look at the House-passed budget Monday. The Senate is expected to complete its version of the $15 billion spending plan in about a month.