Eighteen States Offer Prenatal Care to Undocumented Immigrant Women (Nov. 2013)

Under the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, undocumented pregnant women are ineligible for federally-funded prenatal care.[1]  The Act also denies them access to care funded by state and local governments, unless the state passes a law affirmatively extending eligibility to unauthorized immigrants.[2]  In 2002, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services promulgated a new regulation that gave states the option to provide prenatal care to undocumented immigrant women by extending Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage to the fetus.[3]  The resulting policy is referred to as the “unborn child option.”  As of November 2013, eighteen states offer prenatal care to undocumented women—either through the CHIP unborn child option or by using state-only funds.  The chart below lists these states and their respective policies.

[1] 8 USC § 1611.

[2] 8 USC § 1621.

[3] 42 CFR Part 457.  CHIP provides health insurance to low-income children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid.  CHIP is administered by the states but is jointly funded by the federal government and the states.  Thus, undocumented pregnant women have access to prenatal care because their unborn children are eligible for CHIP.


The following sources were utilized to compile this summary:

1)      Kaiser Family Foundation, Getting into Gear for 2014: Findings From a 50-State Survey of Eligibility, Enrollment, Renewal and Cost-Sharing Policies in Medicaid and CHIP, 2012-2013, Jan. 23, 2013

2)      Guttmacher Institute, Toward Equity and Access: Removing Legal Barriers to Health Insurance Coverage for Immigrants, Jan. 2013

3)      NILC, Medical Assistance Programs for Immigrants in Various States, July 2012

4)      Nebraska Appleseed, LB599: Restoring Prenatal Care in Nebraska, Mar. 29, 2012

5)      The Urban Institute, A Comprehensive Review of Immigrant Access to Health and Human Services, June 2011

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