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Report: SD Would See Economic Benefits from Medicaid Expansion


Wednesday, June 9, 2021   

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Boosting health-care access and tapping into federal aid often are cited as reasons to expand Medicaid, but a new report says South Dakota also would see new jobs and more revenue.

The nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund analyzed the nearly dozen states that haven't expanded their Medicaid programs. If South Dakota acted, the report said, the state could see more than 4,000 new jobs and nearly $10 million in economic activity.

Shelly Ten Napel, executive director of the Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas, is backing one of two Medicaid ballot initiatives in the state. She cited benefits from the care that already is provided free of charge to uninsured patients.

"Adding Medicaid to that picture would just make those services more financially viable," she said, "able to extend hours, extend services to those who need it - or just to maintain services in communities that are small and kind of losing population over time."

More than a decade ago, the Affordable Care Act incentivized states to expand Medicaid, with the federal government picking up most of the tab. The new American Rescue Plan offers added incentives. Generally, conservatives cite budget concerns, and Gov. Kristi Noem has been a staunch opponent of Medicaid expansion. These ballot campaigns are aimed at the November 2022 election.

Ten Napel suggested that policymakers sometimes get too bogged down with the financial ramifications, and may forget about what's at the core of the idea.

"Do we want to make sure that our neighbors are able to get care when they need it? I think people really respond to that," she said.

Beyond economic factors, a new American Cancer Society study said cancer patients in states with lower Medicaid income-eligibility limits had worse long-term survival rates. Supporters hope these findings convince enough South Dakotans to back the initiatives. The Legislature added a wrinkle by passing a proposed constitutional amendment for the June 2022 primary. It would raise the approval threshold for future ballot questions to 60%, meaning Medicaid expansion would need more than a simple majority to pass.

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