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Party Leaders Talk Medicaid Expansion’s Effects On The IHS

Democratic leaders in the Statehouse say they’re optimistic about the Governor’s proposal to expand Medicaid. They say it benefits tens of thousands of South Dakotans and could transform the Indian Health Service.  

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. He says Native Americans face a lack of access to quality care through the Indian Health Service.
“How do we transform what is happening at IHS,” Heinert says. “Because if you are Medicaid eligible right now, and you go to an IHS facility, that is 100% federal Medicaid dollar. There’s no IHS dollar, there’s no state dollar. As soon as you leave that IHS facility, that becomes half federal, half state dollar. That IHS dollar is already small. It’s critically underfunded.”
He says with the new FMAP rate and contracting authority that IHS would have, the Medicaid expansion plan allows hospitals access to things like eEmergency and telehealth services.
Senate Majority Whip Deb Soholt says the conversation between the tribes, state government, and healthcare systems is a great step forward.
“The thought that we could have that be an extension, of what is their treaty obligation for Indian health services,” Soholt says. “That you don’t have to just go back to the person on the reservation, I think that really speaks to assimilation within the whole state, and really looking out for all of our citizens, not thinking of a separateness, if you will.”  
State leaders are still waiting for more information from the federal government before forming a concrete plan. That could take a few weeks. Republican leaders say there are some concerns about costs.