Dakota Free Press, July 21, 2016
In a July 1 op-ed in another paper, dentist and Dist. 8 Rep. Leslie Heinemann says expanding Medicaid is too risky. He has apparently never experienced the risk of living without affordable health insurance – a problem that expanding Medicaid would solve for 50,000 South Dakotans.
Like other Republican legislators, Representative Heinemann claims that inadequate federal funding of various programs proves that we cannot trust the federal government to sustain funding for Medicaid expansion. If Republican legislators really believed that logic, they would vote to reject federal highway dollars and to dissolve the Ellsworth Development Authority, because the federal government could default on its transportation and military budget at any moment.
Heinemann points fretfully to faster-than-expected enrollment in states that have expanded Medicaid. He ignores an 11-state study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showing that Medicaid expansion is saving states and hospitals money.
The three states Heinemann cites are all better off fiscally. According to a June 2016, Georgetown University Health Policy Institute brief, Washington state has saved over $100 million. According to a March 2016 Montana Budget and Policy Center brief, Montana saved $3 million in state funds. According to a July 2015 Reno Gazette-Journal article, Nevada will spend another $9 million of its general funds to receive $1.0 billion more in federal match.
Hmmm … spend $9 million more in state funds, get $1 billion more in federal health care dollars. That’s like the boss saying that if I work some overtime and deposit an extra $690 in my retirement account, they’ll match it with $36,000. I think dentists take some math in college, but in case Heinemann is still scratching his head, the answer to this story problem is, “Yes.”
Gov. Dennis Daugaard has chickened out of calling a special session to discuss Medicaid expansion, so balky Republican legislators can celebrate a third straight year of turning down affordable health coverage for 50,000 South Dakotans and hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus.
It’s not Medicaid expansion that’s risky; it’s electing legislators like Representative Heinemann who ignore facts and vote against S.D.’s best interest.