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Health Advocates Aim To Help Working Poor

Kealey Bultena

Medicaid expansion in South Dakota may not happen, but many health care providers say they’re not giving up on reforms that could help the working poor. Some health leaders are looking for other ways to deliver medical care to thousands of people.

Doctor Tim Ridgway says the point of the complicated medical system is to take care of people and improve the health of all individuals in communities.

Ridgway says navigating those elements and figuring out how to pay for all of it is an intricate process.

"It’s not simple, but what’s our alternative? Do we just wring our hands and say, ‘Well, we just can’t figure this out, so we’re just going to keep doing things the way we were.’ Not a good solution for South Dakotans or for our entire country," Ridgway says.

Ridgway is a recent president of the South Dakota State Medical Association. He supported the move to expand Medicaid to people who can’t afford health insurance on their own but make too much money for government coverage. 

South Dakota officials spent months working with federal authorities to cashflow Medicaid expansion. Indian Health Services agreed to pay tens of millions of dollars in Native American health care that the state has been covering. The deal is in question now that South Dakota is not expanding Medicaid.

Scott Duke with South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations says he hopes IHS is still committed to the deal.

"Then we believe firmly that those dollars should be used toward the cause and the purpose which they were being brought forward to, and that was care coordination, improving access, and then bringing the level of care, as a result of that through coordinated care, up for the working poor, and that includes our IHS recipients on the reservations," Duke says.

These health care leaders say people without insurance often skip preventative care because they can’t pay for it. They say, in the long run, that’s more expensive for everyone.

South Dakotans have many unanswered questions. SDPB tackles those in a discussion on Dakota Midday plus extended interviews with Duke and Ridway.Listen at this link.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).
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