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Do the Right Thing: Expand Medicaid in SD

Updated: Apr 3

by Dan Ahlers, Democratic candidate for South Dakota House of Representatives, District 25

In the wake of the United States Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, we are left to ponder what’s next. I watched Governor Noem on Face the Nation talk about supporting families in our state. She talked about the possibility of a special session and new programs to help young mothers and their children. Aside from the irony of a self-proclaimed small-government politician talking about creating new programs, the more obvious question is: why weren’t we helping these individuals before? There is a practical solution to helping families in South Dakota. We can and should expand Medicaid.

Expanding Medicaid in South Dakota would give more than 40,000 additional South Dakotans access to healthcare. That’s nearly half of South Dakota’s uninsured. Currently, eighty percent of South Dakota’s Medicaid recipients are children. According to the SD Department of Health, nearly half of all children born in South Dakota receive Medicaid benefits in their first year of life. It is logical to assume that most of their mothers do not have health care coverage and that their access to prenatal care is limited. Expanding Medicaid could give these working women access to better prenatal and postpartum health care.

This approach has been adopted by both Republican and Democrat-led states. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson told CBS News how important the expansion of Medicaid has been for his state and what it will mean for women who are expecting. His state will use these federal dollars to bolster services during and after pregnancy.

Unfortunately, South Dakota is one of only 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid. Governor Noem and a majority of our legislators continue to oppose expanding Medicaid. During my district’s legislative forum earlier this year, all three of my elected officials from District 25 opposed expansion and vowed to oppose it even if the people of South Dakota should vote to pass it.

The most common argument against Medicaid expansion is that it expands a welfare program—the inference being that it benefits people who do not work. In South Dakota, nearly two-thirds of all eligible recipients eligible under Medicaid expansion are families with at least one working adult. In states that have expanded Medicaid, the benefits have included reduced medical debt, greater access to care and a reduction in medical costs. Medicaid expansion has also benefited many rural health care providers. Improved access to care for women who are expecting in rural areas is a key benefit of Medicaid expansion.

Medicaid expansion will be a benefit to expecting mothers and families across South Dakota. Expansion will mean better access to prenatal care, ensuring the best outcomes for mother and child. Providing health care to both parent and child will benefit the long-term health of many uninsured South Dakotans.

Our South Dakota politicians often tout their Christian values. I would like to remind them that Christ sought company with society’s least desirable, fed the hungry and healed the sick, and that we are commanded to follow in His example. It would only make sense, then, for us to do the right thing and pass Medicaid expansion.

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