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Native Sun News: South Dakota to exclude poor from Medicaid





The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.


South Dakota’s Republican governor, Dennis Daugaard, has followed the lead of Louisiana’s Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, and Texas’ Republican governor, Rick Perry, in choosing to opt out of the Affordable Care Act. PHOTO COURTESY/FLICKR.COM

Daugaard pledges to exclude poor from Medicaid
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY — South Dakota’s Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced Dec 4 that he would not support expanding Medicaid benefits to thousands of poverty-stricken South Dakotans.

Under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010, approximately 17 million uninsured Americans who earn up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level - which is the equivalent of $14,856 a year - would be eligible to receive Medicaid. However, when the Supreme Court upheld the law this past June, it allowed for individual states to opt out of expanding Medicaid: An option Daugaard feels would be best for South Dakota.

“I want to stress that these are able-bodied adults. They’re not disabled; we already cover the disabled. They’re not children; we already cover children. These are adults - all of them,” said Daugaard in an interview with WNAX radio of Yankton.

In South Dakota, expansion of Medicaid would provide 44,000 South Dakotans with coverage under the new rules by 2022, according to a study released by the Urban Institute and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. In addition, an estimated 6,000 residents of South Dakota who now qualify for Medicaid would potentially be added to the program when “Obamacare” is made available in October of 2013.

There is some truth in the governor’s statement that South Dakota provides coverage to adults with disabilities and children. However, those benefits are only available to the poorest of the poor in South Dakota.

According to the Kaiser Foundation, a single adult with a disability would be ineligible to receive Medicaid in South Dakota if that individual earns more than $674 a month or has more than $2,000 in assets. Children are ineligible to receive benefits from Medicaid or South Dakota’s Children Health Insurance Program if their family has an income that exceeds 140 percent of the poverty rate, which works out to be $26,726 a year for a family of three.

South Dakota is one of nine states with Republican governors that have announced they will not extend the coverage to able-bodied citizens who live in poverty. The list of states that have chosen to opt out also includes Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma.

The main reason cited by Republicans for choosing to opt out of the Affordable Care Act in their states is the costs associated with the implementation and maintenance of the program. However, according to the Urban Institute and the Kaiser Foundation, spending by states would rise by just 3 percent because the federal government will bear the burden of the majority of the new expenses.

The estimated cost of expanding Medicaid across the country is $1.03 trillion, with states paying only $76 billion of that grand total.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at staffwriter2@nsweekly.com)