Despite a poll showing a majority of South Dakotans favor Medicaid expansion, Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s office said Wednesday he has no plans to introduce legislation to expand health care in the state.
In a survey released earlier this week by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, 63 percent of 400 state residents favored Medicaid expansion while 31 percent opposed it.
The others polled had no opinion. Republican pollster Glen Bolger conducted the poll for Alexandria, Va.-based research firm Public Opinion Strategies. The poll's margin of error is 4.9 percent.
Daugaard has been unwilling to accept the federal government's offer of millions of dollars to expand Medicaid in the state, saying he is unsure if the federal government would maintain its share of the funding in the long term.
As far as the poll results, the governor's communication director, Tony Venhuizen, said in an email Wednesday the issue is “too complex” to validate in a simple poll.
South Dakota is one of 23 states that have so far declined to expand Medicaid or develop alternative models to insure them under the Affordable Care Act.
In states that have accepted the money, the federal government pays 100 percent of the costs for the first three years and gradually shifts 10 percent of the cost to states by 2020.
If South Dakota eventually decides to accept Medicaid expansion, it could receive as much as $57 million in federal money in 2014.
Megan Myers, grassroots manager for the Cancer Action Network , an organization that acts as the American Cancer Association’s lobbying arm, said the state would greatly benefit if Daugaard and state lawmakers decided to accept the federal money.
An estimated 48,000 South Dakotans are currently uninsured. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately 25,000 will fall between the cracks — too poor to qualify for subsidized insurance plans on the health care exchange but not poor enough for Medicaid without the expansion.
“We are very, very concerned about them because they don’t have any options at all,” Myers said.
She said the reality is that without coverage, many people will put off health screenings until it’s too late or when their medical conditions become more burdensome and costly to treat.
“We know people are getting health care, but they are getting it in expensive places” like emergency rooms, Meyers said. “For the investment the state would make, we would get so much more back.”