LINCOLN, Neb. (CN) – A pregnant, legal immigrant claims Nebraska denied medical care for her and her unborn child by refusing to process a claim for prenatal care. The state class action claims the Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services unconstitutionally revoked unborn children’s rights to medical assistance, which is guaranteed by state law, and have denied care to more than 1,500 women and babies since March 1.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services killed medical assistance for unborn children on March 1, “effectively repealing regulations that provided for such eligibility,” under the state’s Medical Assistance Act, Jane Doe claims for the class.
Doe, 38, and 35 weeks pregnant, holds a non-immigrant U Visa. U-Visas are given to victims of crime, often because they may be needed to testify. The U Visa customarily grants work privileges, and is good for up to 4 years. Only 10,000 U Visas may be granted annually.
Does was a victim of domestic violence. The U Visa does not qualify her for Medicaid herself, but immigration law, and her status as a low-income working mother should qualify her unborn child for care, according to the complaint in Lancaster County Court.
Doe says she earns $16,000 a year and cannot afford prenatal care. Neither she nor her child have received any. She claims the Department of Health and Human Services, its CEO Kerry Winterer, Division of Children and Families Director Todd Reckling, and Division of Medicaid and Long-Term Care Director Vivianne Chaumont
violated the separation of powers clause of the Nebraska Constitution and the state’s Administrative Procedure Act.
Since the defendants’ new “rule” took effect on March 1, at least 1,551 pregnant women in Nebraska have been denied medical care or had medical assistance terminated for their unborn children, according to the complaint.
Doe claims her case is particularly traumatic because during two of her previous pregnancies she developed gestational diabetes, which can cause brain damage, heart disease, poor spine development in the fetus, and even death.
“Without prenatal care, especially with her history of gestational diabetes, the likelihood that Ms. Doe and her unborn child now have or will have serious health problems is greatly increased,” the complaint states.
Doe seeks an injunction and declaratory judgment that the defendants exceeded their authority by denying of medical care to unborn children.
She is represented by James A. Goddard and Rebecca Gould with the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest.