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LETTER: Support for the sick should be nonpartisan

To the Editor:


 Medicaid expansion — a topic of active discussion in the legislative session — would benefit the whole state.


 Such an expansion 1) clearly benefits the recipients. The positive impact, however, is much broader than that; 2) More coverage of South Dakotans through Medicaid means fewer uncompensated care bills going to county commissioners; 3) It means that bad debt levels in our hospitals will be reduced; 4) Less uncompensated care means less cost shifting to insured patients; and 5) Communities benefit as their health care facilities — hospitals, clinics, etc. — are under less financial strain and more able to serve their communities in a broader context.


 The governor has indicated his concern that the federal government will not be able to hold up its end of the bargain. Such reasoning is unconvincing. First of all, it is pure speculation. In the 50-year history of Medicaid, the government has never defaulted. Secondly, even if the worst predictions were to come true, we would be no worse off than we are today. I wonder if the governor or legislators plan to apply the same hesitancy to the acceptance of federal highway funds?


 If the case for expansion is strong and the case against it is weak, one wonders why the hesitation? I fear that the answer is partisan politics. My perception is that those who hesitate do so out of fear that they may be seen as doing something to support Obamacare and thereby will be attacked by the extremist opponents of the health reform law. I hope I am wrong in my perception. Getting sick people the care they need should be a goal that rises above partisan bickering.