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SD Voters Approve Medicaid Expansion


Wednesday, November 9, 2022   

South Dakota has joined the more than three dozen states to expand Medicaid.

Those who supported the ballot initiative said it goes beyond standard care and will help in such areas as mental health.

Voters voiced their approval of the idea in yesterday's election. Leading up to the vote, backers touted how an expansion would help uninsured South Dakotans receive preventive care and help reduce chronic illness.

Terry Werner, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers South Dakota chapter, said it can also help social workers who provide therapy in clinical settings.

"I think there's a lot of clinical social workers who end up doing work and not being reimbursed for it," Werner pointed out. "That's an important aspect of it."

He suggested having more people with health coverage reduces the risk of being denied care if a provider is worried about reimbursements. Since the Affordable Care Act became law, states have had the option to receive federal funds to expand their Medicaid programs. The federal program also reduced eligibility barriers tied to mental health. Despite the large federal incentives, opponents have often argued about the share of costs paid by the states.

Werner pointed out South Dakota has many gaps in mental health services, and while there have been efforts to improve services in places like schools and prisons, he insisted there is still a lot of work to do.

"There are just simply not enough social workers to go around," Werner contended.

Going into this year's election cycle, South Dakota was among the 12 states yet to approve Medicaid expansion. Except for Wyoming, all the states bordering South Dakota had already taken the step.

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