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Daugaard says no to pursuing Medicaid expansion

PIERRE (AP) -- Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Tuesday that he won't pursue an expansion of Medicaid in 2017 after a discussion with Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Governor Dennis Daugaard speaks to a group of people about his talking points from his state of the speech at the on Tuesday morning Highland Conference Center in Mitchell. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Governor Dennis Daugaard speaks to a group of people about his talking points from his state of the speech at the on Tuesday morning Highland Conference Center in Mitchell. (Matt Gade/Republic)

PIERRE (AP) - Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Tuesday that he won't pursue an expansion of Medicaid in 2017 after a discussion with Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

The South Dakota governor said in a statement that his decision is based on a Monday meeting in which he and Pence talked about the Trump administration's plans for repealing or overhauling the Affordable Care Act.

The move comes after Daugaard's administration had worked during Democrat Barack Obama's presidency to open the program to roughly 50,000 more low-income South Dakota residents.

The governor had said he might propose an expansion during the 2017 legislative session, a prospect that his announcement shut down.

Daugaard had previously floated the idea of a summer special session, but decided against it after hearing from lawmakers who wanted more time to study the proposal and to wait until after the presidential election to consider it.

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He had supported broadening eligibility for the health coverage program for low-income and disabled people, as long as the state's share of the cost was covered by savings. Daugaard had said that a federal move to take on more Medicaid costs for Native American enrollees would allow South Dakota to cut spending enough to offset expansion.

Foes were "thrilled" with Daugaard's announcement, Americans for Prosperity South Dakota State Director Ben Lee said. Other states that have expanded Medicaid have experienced cost overruns, he said.

But the decision comes as a blow to state Democrats, who have repeatedly called for an expansion of the program. It would help save people's lives and have a positive economic impact on the state, said Democratic Senate leader Billie Sutton.

"It's obviously disappointing," Sutton said. "We felt like we were pretty close to getting this done."

Daugaard said Tuesday that the national election results mean the prospect of overhauling the Medicaid program is real.

He intends to work with President-elect Donald Trump's administration and South Dakota's congressional delegation to leverage the federal policy change "to improve access to health care through Medicaid reform," Daugaard said.

 

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