Tuesday, September 29, 2009

South Dakota and Medicaid

One of the biggest challenges for South Dakota's next governor will be how we approach the health care issue. Not only are the costs to individuals going through the roof, but the cost to our taxpayers is also going through the roof, and it may become even worse if some federal legislation passes.

The Wall Street Journal yesterday did a great job laying out some of the repercussions new rules could have. Of most concern is Medicaid, which works through a state and federal partnership with each pitching in some of the cost. The legislation currently being discussed will increase Medicaid eligibility levels to 133% of the federal poverty level (FPL), or $30,000 for a family of four.

Medicaid already comprises a significant portion of our state budget, and increasing the federally mandated eligibility levels will compound the existing budget problems for South Dakota.

Our campaign is currently in the middle of a 42 community health care summit tour across the state. I have had the opportunity to talk to many people about their health care. These are people who are on Medicare, Medicaid, people who can afford/buy insurance and people who are unemployed and can't afford insurance. There is no doubt in my mind we need to have a plan for South Dakota to cover our uninsured population and take care of our elderly, but federal legislation geared towards a one-size-fits-all approach will not be best for South Dakota. Not when paying for it comes at the cost of reduced benefits for our elderly and higher taxes on our working people and small businesses. That is why I dedicated a chapter to health care in my book "A Vision for South Dakota". A better plan for our state will focus on tort reform, covering uninsured, improving disease management and promoting prevention strategies to lower costs in the long run. Getting our state's budget back to a position of financial strength will be essential to solving this problem.

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