SD Joining Voter-Driven Movement for Medicaid Expansion

By Mike Moen, Greater Dakota News Service

When the Affordable Care Act was adopted, most states that expanded Medicaid did so through their legislatures. But in states that refused, there’s been a push for citizens to bypass those decisions through ballot initiatives, and South Dakota is now part of that movement.

This November, signature gathering will begin to get two Medicaid expansion questions on the 2022 ballot in South Dakota. One would be a constitutional amendment, and the other would be an initiated measure directing the state Legislature to take action.

John Tsitrian, co-publisher of the nonpartisan blog South Dakota Standard, recently authored a post calling for the state to support such a move.

“I think the outcomes, both in health and just general economic benefits, are almost too big to ignore,” Tsitrian said.

The South Dakota Legislative Research Council says an expansion of Medicaid benefits could help more than 42,000 residents become eligible. The federal government would provide $300 million annually to cover the costs, with the state covering $21 million.

Opponents, including Gov. Kristi Noem, argue about the effect that would have on the state budget.

But Tsistrain said those state contributions would pay off because of the larger federal investment and the economic impact it would have, in addition to the added health benefits to those who need coverage. He pointed to research from the University of Montana, which analyzed that state’s expansion.

“They believe it had a specific affect on increasing the state’s GDP. And they believe it boosted overall personal incomes since it was implemented in 2015,” he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon hear another challenge to the ACA, which could affect Medicaid expansion. But supporters of the idea say that doesn’t mean organizers should give up, citing that the law has largely survived many other attempts to do away with it.

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