A former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate wants Medicaid expansion on the ballot for the November 2022 election.
It could be the first such vote on Medicaid expansion since the legislature shot down a proposal in 2016.
Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is releasing petition language for two Medicaid expansion questions. One would enshrine Medicaid expansion into the state’s constitution, and the other would put it into state code.
Rick Weiland is behind the petitions. He says during a pandemic, expanding Medicaid is no longer a political issue, but an economic and morale one.
“This is an opportunity, in working with the Federal government, to provide health insurance to tens of thousands of our fellow citizens,” Weiland says. “I think we’ve seen the stressors of the pandemic, what’s happening to our rural healthcare system, the uncompensated care that’s going on in our hospitals across the state.”
South Dakota is one of fourteen states that have not expanded Medicaid.
All states must meet federal minimum requirements, but they have options for expanding Medicaid beyond the minimum federal guidelines.
An expansion would provide Medicaid benefits to anyone between 18 and 65 whose income is 133 percent of the federal poverty level or less. That’s about 35-thousand dollars for a family of four. Current eligibility law is includes a higher income.
Former Governor Dennis Daugaard supports Medicaid expansion, but didn’t have enough support in the legislature to pass the provision. In 2015, Daugaard said the plan would extend coverage to 55-thousand South Dakotans.
Lee Strubinger is the politics and public policy reporter for SDPB.