Sacramento has several opportunities to improve the prospects that women who are poor will have healthy babies.
As a result of a study showing that other health costs of raising children go down when women get good prenatal care, Gov. George Deukmejian already has signed a bill to raise the level of prenatal care starting July 1 for women under the Medi-Cal program. Now the Legislature wants a task force to make a similar survey of costs and benefits for women who are poor but not poor enough to be covered by Medi-Cal.
The Department of Health Services opposes the bill--AB 4241, sponsored by Assemblywoman Teresa Hughes (D-Los Angeles)--saying that a state board already provides advice about prenatal care and that it should finish its own survey sometime this fall. The Legislature is right to want something more specific on this important question, and Deukmejian should sign the bill.
The same department proposes, however, to pay obstetricians who see Medi-Cal patients an additional fee of $150 if they will provide earlier and more frequent prenatal care. Current payments are too low. The Legislature had increased the budget to cover higher fees, but the governor vetoed most of the money, saying that increases could be granted administratively. The department should take him up on that.