Monday, February 16, 2015

Some Baby Steps Toward Medicaid Expansion In South Dakota? Governor Daugaard's Talk With WNAX Is Intriguing.

     Now that the evidence about the positive economic and healthcare effects of expanding Medicaid are starting to mount up, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard seems to taking some baby rhetorical steps in the direction of considering it for our state.  Daugaard's cautious nature explains the carefully worded phrases he used during yesterday's interview on the subject with WNAX radio. That it's a politically-sensitive Obamacare-driven initiative in the first place also mandates the Governor's circumspection.  But politically discreet rhetoric or not, it seems clear that Daugaard is opening his mind to the prospects of bringing more Medicaid money into South Dakota. 
Daugaard: "No" To Medicaid Expansion 
That Was Last Month In Sioux Falls. Last Weekend?  A Slight Tone Change
(photo from Sioux Falls Argus Leader)

    This is about as refreshing a deviation of attitude as I've seen in Daugaard, but he must realize that given the financial opportunities at stake, Medicaid expansion makes enough financial sense to be able to sway the attitudes of even his most fervently Republican, anti-Obamacare allies. There's just too much money available to ignore, especially for a state that needs hundreds of millions of dollars to repair its roads and find some money (to the tune of $90 million/year) to pay its chronically-underpaid teachers a competitive salary.  The hundreds of millions of dollars to be gained directly by expanding Medicare will, thanks to the multiplier effect, be a nice boost for South Dakota's economy, broadening the tax base considerably. I stress the economic gains for their political value, but the bottom line, of course, is that up to 50,000 South Dakotans, most of them the "working poor," will get access to healthcare that they need but can't afford.  Kentucky (perenially red when it
Medicaid Expansion Works In Red State Kentucky
Check This* Out, South Dakotans
(graphic from wikipedia.org)
 comes to voting for Presidents) just released a report on the excellent results*(40,000 jobs and $30 billion economic impact) that accrued  from its decision to expand Medicaid. I've seen similar results from other states, but find Kentucky, with its rural nature and sporadic urban areas to be a good model for South Dakota decision-makers to observe.  

     Our state's reflexively Republican rejection of Medicaid expansion (Mike Rounds made the destruction of the program--all of Obamacare, actually--a foundation stone of his successful U.S. Senate campaign last year) has been a victory for political stubborness over common sense. The Kentucky paradigm should be a useful guide for our elected officials to use  Though Daugaard himself has been adamantly opposed to expansion, there comes a point where facts and experience have to be acknowledged.  Incrementally or in one fell swoop, Daugaard's willingness to open his mind on this is encouraging.   

*Scroll down the "Activity Stream" to the Feb 12, 2015 bracket and you'll find the complete report.

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