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South Dakota lawmakers urged to expand Medicaid

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 20, 2013 at 5:39 pm •  Published: February 20, 2013

Health care executives said all patients will continue to pay higher bills if more low-income people are not allowed into Medicaid. They said people without coverage often delay getting medical care until they are very sick and then show up at hospital emergency rooms. Since they cannot afford to pay for expensive emergency care, hospitals have to charge insured patients more to offset losses in charity care, they said.

Hospitals have reported that they are unable to collect about $90 million a year.

Tim Tracy, chief executive officer of Sanford Health in Vermillion, said the federal health care overhaul required South Dakota hospitals to give up $470 million in Medicare reimbursements in the next decade to help pay for the expansion of Medicaid. He said Medicaid needs to be expanded not to help hospitals, but instead to help working people who cannot afford health insurance.

Linda Sandvik, a Rapid City nurse, said the Medicaid expansion would help those with diabetes and other problems get care before their conditions get serious.

"It's going to impact our most vulnerable residents, the sick and the poor. These people are not deadbeats. They are not lazy. They are not milking the system. They are the working poor," Sandvik said.

At the end of the hearing, committee members were split on the issue.

Rep. Manny Steele, R-Sioux Falls, said expanding Medicaid would help people in the short term, but he does not believe Medicaid expansion and other parts of President Obama's health care law will make health care affordable in the long term because the federal government is in financial trouble.

"We're already broke as a nation," Steele said.

Rep. Steve Hickey, R-Sioux Falls, said he also thinks government will have a hard time paying for the health care overhaul, but he is keeping an open mind on expanding Medicaid.

"If there's a way to do this and make the dollars fit, I do think we ought to try to take care of as many people we can," Hickey said.


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