OPINION: With Medicaid request, governor must triumph over hatred for Obama
PIERRE -- It doesn't take much pawing to unearth this truth in South Dakota. Many Republican elected officials don't like President Barack Obama. Overcoming that hate is the challenge facing Gov. Dennis Daugaard this winter. The Republican has lo...
PIERRE - It doesn't take much pawing to unearth this truth in South Dakota. Many Republican elected officials don't like President Barack Obama.
Overcoming that hate is the challenge facing Gov. Dennis Daugaard this winter.
The Republican has looked during his five years in office for ways to better use state government's revenue. One situation he hasn't been able to correct deals with the federal Indian Health Service.
The federal agency is supposed to provide health care for American Indian people. But state government for years has been forced to help pay for services provided to them outside the federal Indian Health Service system.
For the most recent year, those services cost $139 million. State government paid $69 million.
Daugaard wants the federal government to pay all of it.
Republicans in the Legislature cheer Daugaard for that effort. Where he finds deep dissension is the bargain he might have to make.
The governor would expand eligibility for Medicaid services, to cover an estimated 45,000 to 55,000 lower-income working adults, whose households scrape at the edge of poverty.
He could pay for Medicaid expansion - by 2021, state government's share would be $57 million - if the Obama administration agrees to pay the full cost of American Indian health care.
That means tying South Dakota deeply into Obamacare. There might be no move more precarious for a Republican right now in South Dakota politics.
Our three Republicans in Congress vote time after time, trying to knock Obama down, especially on Obamacare, and issue news releases about doing so. Our state's Republican attorney general repeatedly has joined lawsuits in other states challenging the president.
They've sued on Obamacare several times. They're fighting new regulations on water and air and firearms.
They tried but lost on same-sex marriage, where even the president was later than expected in getting to the wedding.
For years, Daugaard, too, declined to support Medicaid expansion.
He used the word "hate" in his budget speech on Tuesday to describe his feeling about people who get deeper into government assistance but don't work. And then he spoke for the single parent who works to support three children and can't afford health insurance.
Compassionate conservatism became a discredited cliché under the presidency of Obama's predecessor, Republican George W. Bush. But Daugaard might have found a situation where the slogan fits.
He wants Republican legislators to give him budget authority - $373 million of federal spending and 55 more positions on the payroll - to accomplish the Medicaid expansion if he can get the Indian Health Service waiver.
Of course, our federal government doesn't have the money to fully pay for any of this, but doesn't restructure either. Congress doesn't budget very well.
With Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress, the opponents of Obama could be making changes that really take the fight to the president. Instead they send him Obamacare repeals that he rejects.
Seldom can a governor find a solution that eluded his predecessors. But Gov. Dennis Daugaard might have done it.
That is, if Republican legislators are willing to let him accept what many see as a devil's bargain.