Report Finds Mixed Results In Health Coverage For South Dakota Natives

Jul 17, 2017

Credit Lee Strubinger / SDPB

For about a decade the rate of uninsured Native American children in South Dakota declined by almost fifty percent. In the same period, the rate of uninsured adults went up.

That’s according to a recent study out of Georgetown University, which finds South Dakota is one of two states in the country where that happened.

According to a nationwide study of health insurance coverage rates from 2008 to 2015, the uninsured rate for American Indian and Alaska Native children and families has declined.

Joan Alker is a research professor at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy.

Alker says Medicaid coverage for Natives in South Dakota is a mixed bag.

“Kids in South Dakota saw a really big improvement. Native American’s uninsured rate went from 28 percent to 16 percent in 2015. A big improvement, though it’s still too high. Native American adult uninsured rates actually went up over that period. You were really the only state in the country that saw that,” Alker says. “That’s probably because South Dakota did not take up the Medicaid expansion.”

Alker says proposed Medicaid cuts in the Senate GOP healthcare overhaul will devastate Native families in the state.

She says that’s because a lot of IHS operations are payed for by Medicaid dollars.

“Because the Indian Health Service is underfunded and because it too relies on Medicaid, these Medicaid cuts would be a double whammy,” Alker says. “These Medicaid cuts would be a double whammy for this population because they need Medicaid and it will also harm in the Indian Health Service.”

Medicaid expansion was on the table last summer. Following the election of Donald Trump and a promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, Governor Dennis Daugaard abandoned the idea. Part of Daugaard’s plan included off-setting costs through Indian Health Services. IHS agreed to cover Native American health care that currently costs the state tens of millions of dollars.

Read the full report on "Coverage Trends for American Indian and Alaska Native Children and Families" here.