Regional Health CEO Backs Medicaid Expansion

Mar 29, 2016

Regional Health CEO Brent Phillips (left) speaks with Matt Ehlman host of the Morning Fill Up series at The Garage in Rapid City on Tuesday, March 29th 2016.
Credit Charles Michael Ray

The CEO of Regional Health, Brent Phillips, says the talk on Medicaid expansion in South Dakota has too often missed the point.  

Phillips says expanding Medicaid to thousands of uninsured residents will not only help Native people but also be a huge boost to the economy.  

Regional Health is among the largest employers in western South Dakota, and one of the largest health care providers in the state.

Brent Phillips, Regional Health CEO grew up on a Dairy Farm.

“We had federal assistance in the milk program when milk prices wen all wacky and they were trying to save the family farm, says Phillips.  "We all know there is a significant amount of federal monies that goes to ranchers and farmers today.  So if we want to stand on a bully pulpit and say we want no federal help then let’s talk about that in a serious way.  It’s interesting that we can say we want it on this side and we don’t want it on this side,” he adds.

Phillips says expanding Medicaid to cover thousands more people boosts the state economy.  

“As an economy we now have 47,500 people who now have Medicaid coverage.  It’s a healthier workforce, they can now have a primary care doctor, they can now access healthcare properly, they can get preventative services done.  Whereas when they were uninsured their access to healthcare is an emergency department, and we know that is not the best way to access healthcare,” says Phillips.

The state’s plan to expand Medicaid hinges on Indian Health Service funding.  Phillips says covering Native people is vital, but he says this issue is about everyone.    

“This is a benefit to South Dakota period.   It’s not Native Americans in South Dakota. It is South Dakota period.   It benefits all of us.  I don’t know why that is such a hard concept,” says Phillips.   

Governor Dennis Daugaard says he could invite lawmakers back for a special session on Medicaid expansion later this year if all the factors line up in favor of that discussion.

You can hear the entire "Morning Fill UP" with Regional Health CEO Brent Phillips and host Matt Ehlman by clicking play below.  

The Morning Fill Up is a monthly conversation sponsored by the Numad Group and the Bush Foundation.