South Dakota political leaders say Medicaid expansion is off the table in the 2017 legislative session. But one lawmaker says that doesn’t solve the problem of people not being able to afford health coverage.
Governor Dennis Daugaard announced Tuesday that he will not prioritize Medicaid expansion in the next legislative session. He says he made the decision to not expand Medicaid in South Dakota after a meeting with Vice President Elect Mike Pence.
Daugaard had earlier expressed interest in expanding Medicaid to ensure more South Dakotans receive health coverage under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Democratic State Senator Billie Sutton says Daugaard and other leaders must push for Medicaid reforms that help people.
"A lot is on especially Republican governors to appeal to president-elect Trump and his administration to figure out solutions to solving the lack of health care for the working poor," Sutton says. "And, as a state, we have to move forward on trying to figure out how to get people out of poverty so that they can afford health care, and how we bring down the cost of health care."
Sutton says South Dakota’s three members of Congress should also advocate for people who make too much for Medicaid coverage but not enough to pay for health insurance.
Republican State Senator Deb Peters says lawmakers aren't done examining health care, but it will have to be through other efforts instead of expanding Medicaid.
"Any time you can improve health outcomes, it reduces our cost to the state general fund, so I'm always an advocate for trying to find a more efficient, more effective way of delivering health care, the best bang for our buck and still increasing health outcomes," Peters says. "If we have a healthy population, we have a healthy workforce, and that's the goal."
Peters says she's worked with Daugaard for more than five years to improve health care. She says, given the election at the national and local levels, she doesn't think expanding Medicaid is a realistic move. She says it would be a fight to get more than half of all lawmakers to agree to Medicaid expansion.