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LETTER: Expand Medicaid, give everyone a voice

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To the Editor:

The shock at the House State Affairs Committee hearing on Medicaid expansion (HB 1210) on Feb. 19 in Pierre was palpable. A collective "Ohhhhh, no," was expressed by many of the 40-plus audience members, as the committee voted 8-5 to move the bill to the 41st day, killing it, for all practical purposes.

Although called a "no-brainer," Medicaid expansion took more than the brains available on that day.

Expansion has broad implications for economic growth in South Dakota, plus an opportunity for 48,000 citizens to have medical insurance coverage and better health care. It will cost the state approximately $1.9 million. South Dakota will get back more than $260 million, a return of $182 for every $1 invested.

Where would that investment go? To buy groceries, gas and clothes -- money poor families would not have to put into medical expenses. It would mean more money for county governments by not having to pay for excessive emergency room visits. Health would improve because of the preventive care -- annual checkups, vaccinations and mammograms. Employers would have healthier, more productive employees.

Consider that the state's three largest medical providers -- Regional Healthcare, Avera and Sanford -- all testified in favor of expansion, along with the South Dakota Nurses' Association and at least five or six other health-related entities.

The only two opponents of the bill came from state government itself. You figure it out.

One argument against expansion is that the state can't trust the federal government to carry through with its promise to fund Medicaid. Bogus.

Between 50 and 60 percent of the state's budget is federal money? South Dakota gets back $2 for every $1 it sends to Washington, D.C. If the Bureau of Finance and Management didn't think it would get the federal funds it expects, do you think it could put together a responsible budget?

Go to http://legis.sd.gov/Legislative_Session/Bills/RollCall.aspx?Vote=16267&Session=2014 to see the vote. It's time, good people of South Dakota. Let's eliminate the super majority in Pierre and give all South Dakotans a voice.

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