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Is Medicaid expansion good for South Dakota?

Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 7:33 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Pamela Cole often has a petition and pen in hand, ready to offer South Dakotans an opportunity to put Medicaid Expansion to the vote of the people next June.

She’s a grassroots organizer of Dakotans for Health.

“We’re approaching Medicaid expansion in the states, and South Dakota is one of 12 states that has yet to implement Medicaid expansion. (We) Started a ballot measure process to get that in place,” said Cole.

Over 90% of the program would come from federal funding, according to District 15 State Senator Reynold Nesiba.

“Medicaid expansion would apply to working adults. So these are folks that are making too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to actually get a subsidy from the Affordable Care Act market system, and there’s about 40,000 people like that in South Dakota. And so the Biden administration would give South Dakota about $90 million over the next couple of years to be able to expand,” said Nesiba.

As a nurse, Deb Fischer-Clemens says she has cared for those who have the added stress of wondering how they will pay their bills. She is also president of the South Dakota nurses association, which supports Medicaid expansion.

“We believe that it has to be bipartisan in order to get this message out in South Dakota. And so the fact that the health systems, organizations like the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, AARP, the farmers union. We have so many good organizations,” said Fischer-Clemens.

The estimated $21 million that the state would need to pay is a concern for some, including Don Haggar, State Director of Americans for Prosperity.

“I think the way we have Medicaid structured in South Dakota now is the right way. Medicaid covers children. It covers the disabled, and it covers the elderly,” said Haggar

Haggar says his research with other states who chose Medicaid expansion brings more questions.

“Realistically, in most of these other states, that number has been significantly higher than what the estimate is,” said Haggar.

Cole says research shows benefits for state economies after implementing expanded coverage.

“Many studies, currently show that a state’s gross domestic product per capita is growing, because of Medicaid expansion,” said Cole.

Fisher-Clemens says patients and hospitals would benefit from Medicaid expansion.

“And suddenly something happens, and then they have to access the most expensive care which is: going to the emergency room. And typically they need more things at that point, more health care services,” said Fisher-Clemens.

Voters could decide if adults making approximately $17,000 or less could qualify.

“The question is, do able-bodied people from 18 to 50 to 65 really need that safety net,” said Haggar.

Nesiba believes they do.

“And, and so we need to make sure that people have access to care, and that those our hospitals and clinics across the state have access to the funds they need to stay open and meet the medical needs of patients,” said Nesiba.

Fischer-Clemens believes Medicaid expansion will not put a strain on the health care workforce in the state, as ER providers are already attending to those without health care plans who put off seeking care until it becomes a crisis.

Currently, each county pays for a portion of unpaid medical bills. Minnehaha County’s 2021 budget for total health and welfare, including social services, is nearly $7 million.

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