Sioux Falls, S.D. – Patient advocacy organizations including AARP South Dakota, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the American Heart Association, South Dakota State Medical Association and the South Dakota Nurses Association have united to launch South Dakotans Decide Healthcare, an effort to let South Dakota voters determine if the state should expand Medicaid health care coverage to more than 42,000 of their fellow lower-income residents. The coalition—one of the broadest to ever launch a ballot measure in South Dakota—is collecting signatures statewide. South Dakota is one of 12 states that has not increased access to health care through Medicaid expansion.
By offering coverage to individuals who make too much for Medicaid under the current eligibility requirements, but too little to afford private health insurance, South Dakota voters can ensure more people have access to lifesaving health coverage. Signature gathering is taking place and residents are encouraged to add their name in support.
"Access to health care makes it easier to work, find a new job and succeed in today’s economy," said David Benson, ACS CAN South Dakota government relations director. "Sadly, families without insurance are often forced to avoid necessary preventive care and timely early detection screenings that we know can save lives and taxpayer dollars."
The health coverage provided by Medicaid reduces the burden of chronic, life-threatening illnesses like cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes through access to prevention services, screening and early detection, as well as affordable treatment and care.
"Expanding Medicaid will provide coverage for our friends and neighbors who’ve paid into the system throughout their working lives but are now struggling to make ends meet." said Erik Gaikowski, AARP South Dakota state director. "This is money South Dakotans have already paid in taxes that the state is leaving on the table and going to other states. This is money that the state could bring back home to boost the South Dakota economy, create jobs and support rural hospitals."
The state’s Legislative Research Council found that Medicaid expansion would cover 42,500 South Dakotans and save the state $63 million in its first two years. Over five years, Medicaid expansion would return more than $1.3 billion to South Dakota from Washington, D.C., at a cost of only $3.8 million in state funds.
"These savings will matter to voters, and South Dakotans Decide Healthcare is the only initiative that will realize these savings," added Deb Fischer Clemens, president of the South Dakota Nurses Association.
Aside from the significant health care savings to the state, expanding Medicaid will bolster rural health care for farmers and small businesses, protecting South Dakota’s vital agriculture economy.
"Rural residents already drive too far for health care, and 11 of the state’s rural hospitals are at risk of closure. These rural facilities are often the only source of care for communities and they shoulder the cost of treating uninsured patients," said Kara Dahl, M.D., president of the South Dakota State Medical Association. "Expanding Medicaid eligiblility will help keep our vital rural hospitals and clinics open."
South Dakota’s efforts come as voters in Maine, Nebraska, Utah, Idaho, Oklahoma and Missouri have all passed Medicaid expansion in recent years, in part due to broad coalitions and the ability of each campaign to appeal to voters across the political spectrum.
South Dakotans Decide Healthcare is endorsed by the leading patient advocacy organizations, as well as South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, South Dakota Education Asssociation, South Dakota Farmers Union, Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas, and the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board, among others.
South Dakotans Decide Healthcare is a well-funded, non-partisan coalition strategically positioned to win. "Our effort has the best fiscal note and the only ballot language that ensures that the will of the voters will be respected and implemented without delay," said Dahl.
"We’ve been working for nearly a decade to expand Medicaid for thousands of our hardworking friends, family members and neighbors across our state. They’re counting on us, and we urge all South Dakotans to unite behind our Medicaid expansion ballot measure," said Chrissy Meyer, regional communications director with the American Heart Association.
Visit www.SouthDakotansDecide.org to get involved.