Objective: We compared the perinatal outcomes and costs of undocumented women with and without prenatal care and inferred the impact of denial of prenatal benefits to undocumented immigrants in California.
Study design: We retrospectively reviewed the delivery records of a cohort of 970 undocumented immigrants. The effects of prenatal care on low birth weight and prematurity were evaluated by means of logistic regression. The difference in the costs of postnatal care between neonates with and without prenatal care was compared with the cost of prenatal care. This ratio was extrapolated to calculate the net cost to the state. Long-term morbidity costs were also considered.
Results: Nearly 10% of undocumented women had no prenatal care. These women were nearly 4 times as likely to be delivered of low birth weight infants (relative risk, 3.8; 95% confidence interval, 2.03-7.05) and >7 times as likely to be delivered of premature infants (relative risk, 7.4; 95% confidence interval, 4.35-12.59) as were undocumented women who had prenatal care. The cost of postnatal care for a neonate without prenatal care was $2341 more initially and $3247 more when incremental long-term morbidity cost was added than that for a neonate with prenatal care. For every dollar cut from prenatal care we expect an increase of $3. 33 in the cost of postnatal care and $4.63 in incremental long-term cost. Elimination of publicly funded prenatal care for undocumented women could save the state $58 million in direct prenatal care costs but could cost taxpayers as much as $194 million more in postnatal care, resulting in a net cost of $136 million initially and $211 million in long-term costs.
Conclusions: Elimination of public funding of prenatal care for undocumented immigrants in California could substantially increase low birth weight, prematurity, and postnatal costs.