As you know Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Medicaid Opportunities & Challenges Task Force has met throughout the spring and summer regarding expanding Medicaid in South Dakota under the Affordable Care Act.  The task for submitted its final report to the Governor this month.

Expanding Medicaid in South Dakota would provide health care coverage for approximately 48,500 South Dakotans with income up to 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL).  This means single adults who earn $15,415 per year or a family of four earning $31, 809 per year would have access to health care not readily or financially available to them now.  Of course, we know many of our residents that would be eligible for Medicaid are in their middle years and expansion would provide coverage to over 12,000 South Dakotans age 45-64.

Medicaid expansion will create access to early and cost-effective treatment of chronic illness.  Uninsured people with chronic illnesses, like diabetes and heart disease are less likely to receive the care they need to manage their health conditions.  Expanding Medicaid is a cost-effective way to ensure that low-income midlife uninsured South Dakotan are able to access treatment for their chronic but manageable health conditions.

Over half of all uninsured South Dakotans age 45-64 with income below 138% of the FPL are employed.  As you might guess, these people are making very little in wages and either do not have access to employer sponsored health insurance coverage or can not afford health insurance, or both.  The coverage Medicaid expansion will provide for these members of our workforce will keep working and contributing to the economy of our state.

As we all know, modern medicine provides us with many preventive services and expanding Medicaid will provide access to these lifesaving measures.  If you don’t have health insurance you are far less likely to have access to recommended preventive and screening services–such as flu shots, cholesterol screening and mammograms.  The ability to access lifesaving preventive services means people can avoid certain illnesses and/or have their conditions diagnosed and treated much earlier.

The task force’s report is not a recommendation on the issue of Medicaid expansion but instead lays out the pros and cons for expansion.  We appreciate the potential challenges that may come with Medicaid expansion but feel the economic impact, the relatively minimal financial obligation asked of the State and the access to health care and health insurance for our most vulnerable friends and neighbors strongly outweigh any of the negatives.

AARP South Dakota thanks the Governor for his continued leadership on this issue and we continue to urge the State of South Dakota to participate in Medicaid expansion for the health of our state.

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