"SD A Leader In Uninsured" My Column In Today's Rapid City Journal
Rapid City sure has a long way to go when it comes to matching up with the rest of the country in health insurance coverage. Fact is, we are downright awful when it comes to
uninsured rates, a fact that I hope works its way into the electoral conversations among the aspirants
for office in West River precincts during the coming weeks.
Using data from the excellent financial and statistical work put out by Wallethub, you can see that Rapid City — and most likely the surrounding metropolitan statistical area — fares badly (abysmally might be a better word) when it comes to the extent of our uninsured dilemma.
I hope that our legislators will consider the enormity of the problem as they mull expanding Medicaid coverage to a sizable pool of South Dakotans, about 50,000, who fall into a "coverage gap" based on making too much to qualify for conventional Medicaid, but not enough to afford coverage in plans created by the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
We need this coverage if Rapid City is to have a chance at improving on its unfavorable status as a health-insurance desert in a country full of cities that measure up far better than we do.
Wallethub notes that in a country where the overall uninsured rate is 8.6 percent, Rapid City ranks 444th in a pool of 548 American cities at just under 14 percent. And where most of those cities saw their uninsured rates go down, we watched ours increase by a percentage point, placing us in 541st place. Our children's uninsured rate (15 percent) ranks us at 537th. Among small cities, we come in at 198th. As a whole, South Dakota ranks 18th highest with its uninsured rate at 10 percent.
For a state that is constantly scrambling to maintain a labor force that can keep up with any hope of economic growth, so much so that last year Gov. Daugaard dedicated a statewide effort to address and fix the problem, one of the issues seems pretty self-evident to me.
We have a low-wage state where a lot of working people can't make enough to afford health insurance. Given a situation like that, why would we expect younger workers, many of them merging into the labor force at entry-level wages, to remain in or relocate to South Dakota? As acute as the labor shortage is here, you'd think our elected officials would make every effort to bring health insurance opportunities into the state.
Yet, the collective recalcitrance over expanding Medicaid into South Dakota remains. I think the people who are fighting this thing are so consumed by their hatred of everything Obama that they simply will not consider bringing one of his health-care program's opportunities into our state despite its obvious appeal.
For crying out loud, Mike Pence brought Medicaid expansion into Indiana when he was governor. I doubt that there's a more dyed-in-the wool conservative than Pence, who was willing to set aside political obtuseness in favor of fiscal common sense.
Our Gov. Daugaard has had a similar epiphany. I hope a corresponding enlightenment descends on our Legislature at next year's session.