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Report: Fewer Uninsured Children in South Dakota, But Room for Improvement

The rate of South Dakota's uninsured children has dropped, but more work is needed. Credit:  Anita Peppers/Morguefile.
The rate of South Dakota's uninsured children has dropped, but more work is needed. Credit: Anita Peppers/Morguefile.
October 29, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. – According to a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, the number of uninsured children in South Dakota was down in 2014, but the state is lagging behind most other areas of the country.

The report also found South Dakota's rate of uninsured children dropped about nine percent from 2013 levels.

Carole Cochran, project director at South Dakota Kids Count, says even though the state government did not expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, South Dakota is still making progress.

"They're talking right now about expanding Medicaid and working with our nine tribal governments," says Cochran. "I think this will help bolster the discussions to say, 'Look, we could include even more children and it's important to do that.'"

Nationally, the report notes the number of uninsured children dropped to a historic low of six percent last year, with South Dakota just under that number at 5.7 percent.

Report co-author Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, says – unlike South Dakota – states that chose to expand their Medicaid coverage under parts of the Affordable Care Act saw the sharpest drops.

"We found nearly double the rate of decline in uninsured kids that accepted the Medicaid expansion option, even though these states already had fewer uninsured kids to begin with," she says.

The report also concluded that rural areas tend have higher rates of uninsured children. Cochran says this is because access to health services tends to be scarcer in rural areas than urban areas.

"South Dakotans know how difficult it is if you live rural, and the whole access and availability of health care or other important services," says Cochran. "We really try to work at making sure all areas have access to health care."

Cochran suggests that the next steps for South Dakota should include more outreach and education on available health insurance programs in those communities.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - SD