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Drives for Medicaid-Expansion Ballot Issues Ramp Up in SD


Thursday, April 29, 2021   

PIERRE, S.D. -- South Dakota residents might be seeing and hearing more appeals to sign petitions for a Medicaid expansion, because a pair of campaigns continue in hopes of getting the issue on the 2022 ballot.

One of the campaigns is being led by the group South Dakotans Decide Health Care, which consists of a broad coalition of health providers, patient advocates and health-related organizations.

David Benson, North and South Dakota government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said an expansion would help more than 40,000 low-income residents at a time when many communities face access issues.

"Rural residents, as we know, have to drive too far for health care," Benson observed. "And reports show us that 11 of our hospitals are vulnerable to closure. So, Medicaid expansion will help keep rural hospitals and clinics open."

South Dakota is among the 12 states that have yet to expand Medicaid since it became an option under the Affordable Care Act. Most of the expansion is funded by the federal government, with participating states covering a small portion of the costs.

Generally, there are some conservatives who cite budget concerns, and Gov. Kristi Noem has been a staunch opponent of the idea.

Political observers noted the state is intervening on marijuana legalization, despite voter approval last year.

Despite any political headwinds the campaigns might run into, Benson feels there's enough public support to get the issue on the ballot and for it to pass.

He added the wide range of groups behind the effort speaks to the appeal of the idea.

"When you look at the list of supporting organizations, you really get a sense that this is not a partisan issue anymore," Benson contended. "This is about health care for working South Dakotans."

Other groups backing the movement include the South Dakota Association of Hospital Organizations, the South Dakota Farmers Union, AARP and the South Dakota Education Association.

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