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Petition to expand Medicaid in South Dakota delivered to Secretary of State

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Secretary of State today (Monday) is expected to receive signatures from a campaign pushing for Medicaid expansion. The coalition turning in the petitions feels it has enough backing so that voters can weigh in at the ballot box.

South Dakotans Decide Healthcare, which includes a range of statewide groups, says it’s gathered the required signatures to place Medicaid expansion on the 2022 ballot.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is part of the coalition, and its government relations director, David Benson, said the state can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines.

“Right now, our tax dollars are going to states that have expanded,” said Benson. “And so, we want to bring those tax dollars back into South Dakota to invest back into our communities.”

It’s now up to the state to determine if enough signatures are valid. Altogether, more than 47,000 residents signed on.

Generally, some conservatives cite budget concerns in expanding Medicaid since it was offered through the Affordable Care Act.

Most states have opted to take advantage of federal incentives for expansion. And a recent AARP South Dakota survey says 65% of respondents would back such a move.

Benson said it’s consistent with past polling, noting they’ve heard from many people who need the help.

“Individuals that would be impacted by improved access to healthcare coverage in their lives, their family’s lives,” said Benson, “to allow them to seek employment, to continue employment, to be a healthier workforce.”

AARP says results from its survey of 1,000 registered voters age 50 and older will be released by the end of the year.

The campaign is one of two Medicaid-expansion initiatives in South Dakota. If it gets onto the ballot, Republican lawmakers will attempt to stop it by placing a constitutional amendment on the same ballot that would require three-fifths (60%) supermajority vote of approval for the initiative to pass, versus the current simple majority vote required.

Under Medicaid expansion, the state would receive $1.3 billion in federal funding over five years for expansion. The state’s share over that time would be $166.2 million, but would also result in $162.5 million in savings.

The proposal would make Medicaid available to people who live below 133% of the federal poverty level, which is currently about $17,000 annually for an individual or $35,000 for a family of four. About an additional 42,500 South Dakota residents would qualify for Medicaid under the proposal.

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photo courtesy Great Plains Fire


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