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Legislation was filed Wednesday to eliminate a controversial program that provides free pregnancy-related care for undocumented non-citizens. Sen. Paul Scott filed Senate Bill 40 hoping to stop state funds from providing healthcare to pregnant illegal immigrants under the Soon-to-be-Sooners Program (STBS).
“I filed this bill to bring to light the fact that the federal government is forcing states and hardworking taxpayers to foot the bill for illegal immigrants to have their babies in the U.S. This isn’t right. They are in the country illegally,” said Scott, R-Duncan. “The federal government has tied our hands. The State of Oklahoma can’t stop providing funding to the more than 6,200 noncitizens receiving services under the Soon-to-be-Sooner Program or they will take away our federal CHIP funding, which is over $91 million.”
The STBS program falls under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) authority. CHIP’s Maintenance of Effort provisions were set to expire on September 30, 2019 but Congress passed and the President signed a resolution in January extending the program through September 30, 2027.
The STBS program was established in April 2008 as a limited scope benefits for pregnant non-citizens below 185 percent FPL. Pregnant citizens under 185 percent FPL received full scope benefits in the traditional SoonerCare program.
After January 1, 2014, the STBS coverage was changed to only include pregnant citizens with incomes between 133-185 percent FPL and pregnant non-citizens below 185 percent FPL. Pregnant citizens below 133 percent FPL are currently covered with full scope benefits under SoonerCare.
According to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the STBS program covered 9,856 individuals in FY’18: 3,629 were Oklahomans and 6,227 were non-citizens/undocumented immigrants. The program cost just over $15.74 million with the federal government providing $14.8 million and Oklahoma paying nearly $907,000.
“As a medical professional, I understand the importance of prenatal care but these mothers are illegal immigrants,” said Scott. “Our responsibility is to the taxpayers of this state, not illegal immigrants. I’d like to encourage Oklahomans to call their Congressmen and urge them to remove the requirement to cover
noncitizens under the CHIP. Our healthcare system is in chaos so it makes no sense that the federal government is making the problem worse by covering thousands of illegal immigrants instead of holding them accountable and making them come to our country legally.”
Scott said the program also discourages illegal immigrants from seeking citizenship.
“Why would they go through the hassle of seeking citizenship or returning to their home country when we’re providing them free services,” asked Scott. “It makes no sense. If they can fill out paperwork for free medical care, they can fill out paperwork to become taxpaying citizens and pay for their health services like other Americans and Oklahomans.”