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Weighing the Expansion of Medicaid Coverage

PHOTO: Hearings are happening at the State Capitol in Pierre to hear South Dakotans' views on the possible expansion of Medicaid health-insurance coverage.
PHOTO: Hearings are happening at the State Capitol in Pierre to hear South Dakotans' views on the possible expansion of Medicaid health-insurance coverage.
February 19, 2013

PIERRE, S.D. - A hearing will be held Wednesday at the State Capitol in Pierre to hear South Dakotans' views on the possible expansion of Medicaid health-insurance coverage. Senator Jean Hunhoff of Yankton and Representative Scott Munsterman of Brookings, who chair the respective Senate and House Health and Human Services Committees, will preside over the hearing.

According to Dennis Eisnach, volunteer president of AARP-South Dakota, it is critical that Medicaid be expanded to cover people that can't afford the coverage. Otherwise, he said, the responsibility will fall to counties.

"These are people that are below the poverty level, and they are required to take care of them, so they will either take care of them that way or they take care of them through the expansion of Medicaid, which the federal government is going to contribute 100 percent for three years, and then continue to pick it up at 90 percent from there on," Eisnach explained.

Critics of the expansion plan say they don't trust the federal government to live up to its funding promises, leaving the state to shoulder the extra cost.

Eisnach said states can protect themselves from having to pick up too much of the expansion cost if the federal government did not cover it.

"There have been states that have just gone into this expansion and put a trigger on there so that if that happens, the state is not on the hook," he said. "That can always be done. That's one thing you can do."

Eisnach said it would be less expensive to take care of people before they have a critical illness and wind up in an emergency room.

"There's a lot of research out there to back that up, that preventive health care kinds of things is cheaper in the long run than not having people covered until there is a crisis," he noted.

This will be the third public meeting on Medicaid expansion. No formal action is expected at the hearing, but it is anticipated that a bill will be introduced into the Appropriations process.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD