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AARP: Care Shortfall Looming in SD

February 2, 2009

Pierre, SD – Faced with a major budget shortfall this year and next, South Dakota policymakers will be watching closely this week as the U.S. Senate considers a federal recovery package that could help lift the state out of a major funding crisis. Sam Wilson, associate state director for advocacy with AARP South Dakota, is especially worried about a proposed multi-million dollar cut for Medicaid and for adult dental services, which is included in spending reductions proposed by Governor Mike Rounds. Wilson says that cut, along with a lack of any planned adjustment for inflation, could make care harder to come by if some providers choose to stop accepting Medicaid patients. However, he is hopeful that Congress and the President will deliver a package that eases the state's problems.

"When we look at the stimulus package proposed in Congress, South Dakota alone stands to get somewhere between 150 and 175 million dollars. So, when you're talking about having to fill budget deficits of 42 or 52 million dollars and then 80 million dollars next fiscal year, this in many instances would cover those predicted state shortfalls."

Aside from the Medicaid cuts, Wilson says AARP is also concerned about funding for a Masters of Social Work degree at the University of South Dakota. He says the program, already approved by the legislature, but excluded from the governor's 2010 budget, would address the state's growing need for trained social workers.

"We have a real shortfall, and with growth of our aging population, there's going to be even greater need for individuals who have an MSW. So, we're really working closely with the Board of Regents and the National Association of Social Workers to get that critical piece of our health care workforce in place for the next ten to twenty years, where we'll need them."

South Dakota is the only state currently without a Masters of Social Work program. Wilson says cuts and withheld funding for critical programs could actually cost the state more in the long run, and he says AARP will be working with lawmakers on alternative solutions.

David Law, Public News Service - SD