Medicaid expansion big issue for candidate Wismer

The Associated PressJuly 14, 2014 

— Democratic governor candidate Susan Wismer hopes Medicaid expansion will be a winning issue in her battle against Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

Wismer is campaigning across the state in favor of covering tens of thousands of low-income South Dakota residents through an expanded Medicaid program, The Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/1yh8naz ) reported. She says it not only would help the uninsured but also would bolster hospitals by covering medical care they now are absorbing themselves.

"It's one of the most important focuses of my campaign," Wismer said last week as she left a meeting at Sisseton's hospital. "That hospital, it's a small, critical-access care hospital. Their bad debt would probably decrease by close to half a million dollars a year if we had expanded Medicaid."

Wismer predicted South Dakota residents would support Medicaid expansion "when people really understand it as an issue that's important to the survival of their community health care institutions, (and) that it's important to their friends and neighbors that have jobs that do not afford them health care."

Daugaard hasn't closed the door on Medicaid expansion, but he did reject the federal government's offer to pay for 90 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion — more of it the first several years.

He asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for permission to follow a different plan: covering only the poorer half of the 48,000 in the state eligible for Medicaid expansion, while the rest would have to buy subsidized coverage on the federal government's health insurance exchanges. That request was rejected.

Now, Daugaard is waiting as other states negotiate their own deals and compromises with the federal government, content to let them take the lead and the risk.

"What alternative we end up using, if any, should align with South Dakota values where we value self-reliance and independence, and helping those who cannot help themselves, but asking those who can to do so," Daugaard said earlier his year.

Political science professor Jon Schaff said Wismer's Medicaid focus could boost her campaign if she sells it well.

"Greater support for expanding Medicaid only becomes a phenomena to the extent that Susan Wismer is successful in promoting it," Schaff said.

Mike Myers, the independent running for governor, also supports expanding Medicaid. He says he would seek a waiver that gives priority to nursing homes and long-term care.

Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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