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Monument Health, Tribal health board support Medicaid expansion ballot measures for 2022

PHOTOS: Groundbreaking for the new Oyate Health Center

Jerilyn Church, the CEO of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Health Board, is calling for elected leaders to take stronger steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 in South Dakota.

Two ballot measures expanding Medicaid in South Dakota were approved for petition circulation one month ago and have the support of Monument Health and the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board, among other health care groups.

Former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland put forth the measures, which will each need thousands of signatures to make it on the ballot by the November 2022 general election. The initiated measure needs 17,000 signatures, and the constitutional amendment needs 34,000.

Both proposals aim to make Medicaid health insurance available to those who live below 133% of the federal poverty level, which is approximately $17,000 for an individual, or $35,000 for a family of four.

Weiland has said the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need for broader health care coverage. The effort may see more vocal opposition from Americans for Prosperity, a free-market lobbying group that is influential in South Dakota, arguing Medicaid is costly.

According to the Legislative Research Council, Medicaid expansion would cover an additional 42,500 South Dakotans and in the first year of implementation, would earn South Dakota $301.8 million in federal support for up to $20.8 million investment from the state.

South Dakota is one of 13 states that has yet to expand Medicaid under the 2020 federal Affordable Care Act. Former Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard had supported expansion.

Monument Health has long supported expanding access to health care in the state, according to Mike Diedrich, a Rapid City Republican who is vice president of government affairs for Monument Health and the assistant majority leader of the South Dakota Legislature.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a health care and economic crisis for countless families in the state,” Diedrich said. “Medicaid expansion would help more than 40,000 South Dakotans get health coverage, and bring hundreds of millions of our tax dollars home from Washington, D.C.”

Diedrich said Medicaid expansion would help tourism, agriculture and other businesses to meet the needs of South Dakota’s communities.

“We are proud to be part of a broad, bipartisan coalition advancing this common-sense ballot measure to expand Medicaid,” Diedrich said. “South Dakotans Decide Healthcare includes nurses, hospitals, farmers, patient advocates, tribal leaders and folks from both ends of the political spectrum.”

Both Monument Health and the GPTLHB have joined a coalition known as “South Dakotans Decide Healthcare” to pursue the Medicaid expansion ballot questions.

The group also includes the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, AARP South Dakota, Avera Health, Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas, Sanford Health, South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, South Dakota Farmers Union, South Dakota Medical Association and South Dakota Nurses Association.

Thousands of veterans, farmers, ranchers, parents and near-retirees could benefit from Medicaid expansion in the state, the ballot committee said.

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