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The Medicaid Expansion Debate Continues

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South Dakota Legislators talked abortion, tax hikes and education Saturday. But at Saturday morning’s third legislative coffee, there was one topic that got everyone talking.

It’s an ongoing debate that began before the session did.
"We need to take some serious thought of where we draw the line, of who we can help and how much we can help them,” said State Rep. Manny Steele.

And with a bill in both house and senate committees regarding the expansion of Medicaid, the final decision is far from certain.  

What is certain though, is how legislators feel about it.  

“We need to take care of the program we currently have in place,” said State Rep. Christine Erickson.

“We should look at the Medicaid expansion in its totality,” said State Sen. Mark Johnston.

“....The Affordable Care Act, I have a hard time saying it's affordable,” said State Rep. Jim Stalzer.

“It will lift the economic development in our state,” said State Rep. Karen Soli.

 Democratic Rep. Karen Soli believes expanding the state’s Medicaid program will only make South Dakota stronger.

"I see it as really important because anything that keeps our people healthier is good for the economic development of the state,” said Soli.

Soli said expanding the program to be apart of the Affordable Care Act would give 48,000 South Dakotans health care.

“That is the working poor, and those are the people that need help,” said Soli.

But Republican Rep. Hal Wick said those new people would cost the state even more than expected, because the feds may not be able to foot their portion of the bill.

 “Those federal dollars aren't there, and its not even guaranteed for three years anymore because they are already talking about doing a blended rate, which will cost us even more,” said Rep. Wick.

Wick said the state will already be paying between $434 and $435 million in Medicaid costs for 2013. And he said the argument that expanding the program will help South Dakota’s economy, is in invalid.

 “Economic development doesn’t take money from government, economic development is best when it gets a business started that will hire people and produces income that stays in the state,” Wick said.

For 2013, Wick said there is only $4 million in the state’s Medicaid budget to cover new Medicaid users. And over the next year, the amount of people using Medicaid could go from 112,000 to 116,000.
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