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SDPB Radio Coverage of the South Dakota Legislature. See all coverage and find links to audio and video streams live from the Capitol at www.sdpb.org/statehouse

Action Delayed On Expanding Medicaid For Pregnant Women

By Victoria Wicks
Senate Bill 140, a proposal to extend Medicaid eligibility to uninsured pregnant women, is going through Senate Appropriations. The bill asks for $2.6 million in state general funds and another $3.7 million in federal spending authority. A proponent says this is the fifth time she has tried to gain legislative approval for expanded coverage.
Dr. Ann Wilson is a professor of human development at SDSU. She testifies by phone to try to convince the Senate Appropriations Committee that prenatal care pays for itself.
She says the largest expenditure in Medicaid is neonatal intensive care and the ongoing medical expenses of the babies who survive.
She says the state also pays for special education for babies who have disabilities.
Wilson testifies that a recent state task force on infant mortality clearly recommended prenatal care as a response: “The first recommendation was to improve access to early, comprehensive prenatal care. It is now on the responsibility of the legislature to ensure that access by expanding Medicaid coverage for women who have no form of payment currently for their prenatal care.”
Wilson tells the committee that for every baby who dies with prenatal care, there are eight babies who die without it.
Opposition comes from the state Department of Social Services. Brenda Tidball-Zeltinger says the state can’t afford to expand Medicaid.
“We’re working out of the budget reductions from a couple of years ago,” she says. “You know, we’re still working out of those changes, and still working out of those reductions. And we do believe, and I think there is a recognition that at federal level there is a lot of uncertainty relative to a number of funding streams in effect, our program in particular, including a number of other programs outside of medical services.”
Tidball-Zeltinger says unlike an expansion under the Affordable Care Act, Senate Bill 140 would use general funds.
The committee chair deferred action to another day.