The rightwing extremist legislators who constitute the South Dakota Freedom Caucus lie about election integrity. They are also lying about Medicaid expansion. These radical Republicans have responded to voters’ approval of Amendment D, expanding Medicaid in South Dakota, with a press release that “demands solutions to ObamaCare expansion“:
The measure that passed will force individuals from 18 to 65 years of age that make up to 133% above the federal poverty line onto Medicaid, with a 5-year projected total cost of $1.5 Billion dollars, according to estimates from the Legislative Research Council’s June 17, 2021 memorandum on the subject.
Opponents to the expansion point out that after the first two years the state will be responsible for a significant share of the costs – which some worry the state may not be able to afford in the long run. The Freedom Caucus also argues that many South Dakotans may lose their current health coverage after being forced onto Medicaid, something the Republican party promised to stop but some in the party promoted, according to statements from the Freedom Caucus [South Dakota Freedom Caucus, press release, 2022.11.11].
The “Freedom” in this caucus apparently stands for “freedom from facts”. In claiming that Medicaid expansion takes away people’s private insurance, SDFC is repeating the lie peddled by political parasite Keith Moore, who spoke for Americans for Prosperity’s campaign against Amendment D. Read Amendment D again: not one line of the approved amendment requires anyone to enroll in Medicaid and leave a private insurance plan. People eligible for Medicaid now as well as people who will be newly eligible for Medicaid when Amendment D takes effect on July 1 still choose to enroll in the program. Come July 1, no one from the Department of Social Services is going to come knocking on anyone’s door out of the blue and say, “Surprise! You’re on Medicaid now!”
If someone from the government did come to my door and say, “Hey, drop your private insurance; government is going to cover your health care now,” I’d be immensely grateful. But that’s not happening until we elect Raskin/Ocasio-Cortez in 2024….
The Fact-Freedom Caucus also misrepresents the cost of expanding Medicaid. They recite the LRC’s line in its fiscal note about the total cost of $1,515,214,000, but they ignore the actual figures the LRC provides laying out the amount the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee will have to budget:
- The state’s share of expenses will be $166,244,000.
- The state’s general fund savings will be $162,473,000.
- The state’s net expenses for five years will be $3,767,000.
$3.77 million—that’s less than a third of the cost of the Rapid City shooting range, spread over five years, in return for which we help 52,000 South Dakotans get affordable health care. That’s not a “billion-dollar financial problem”; that’s a public-policy bargain!
Even if there is some minuscule budget problem with Medicaid expansion, don’t expect the Freedom Caucus to come up with a solution. True to form, these Trumpists offer no clear policy to fix the problem; they just clamor for solutions from the Republican leaders whom they accuse of pushing “government-run” healthcare:
“I was raised that you clean up the messes you create, and this is the mess Republican leadership needs to clean up,” said Representative Mulally of the South Dakota Freedom Caucus.
…“We understand that officially the South Dakota Republican Party didn’t promote Medicaid Expansion,” said Representative Randolph of the Freedom Caucus, “but the Republican party didn’t oppose it based on the tenets of the party platform either.”
…Around the time Governor Daugaard took office, the South Dakota Republican Party adopted a stance against socialized, or “government run,” healthcare as a part of their platform, illustrating a growing division between party leadership and their conservative membership. A disconnect that the South Dakota Freedom Caucus says the group was born out of according to some of its members.
Now the Freedom Caucus is demanding that the South Dakota Republican party and its members who supported the Medicaid Expansion passage, such as Senator Steinhauer who supported 2022 Senate Bills 102 and 186 to expand medicaid, or Representative Greg Jamison who publicly promoted its passage at the ballot box, come with solutions for the financial shortfall the state is anticipated to face along with the issues the Freedom Caucus says many South Dakotans will be facing in the coming years through losing their private insurance options [SDFC, 2022.11.11].
Again, the Freedom Caucus is arguing against slogans, not facts. Government does not run healthcare through Medicaid; government uses Medicaid to pay for health care.
The Freedom Caucus also demonstrates its disconnect with its elected duties. Government is not some outside entity for the Freedom Caucusers to rail against; the members of this group are part of the government. They are the people some voters have inexplicably elected to come up with policies and solve problems. Legislators, even rump Republicans, have a duty to come up with and promote public policies to solve problems.
The only thing the Freedom Caucusers get right is to view Republican leadership as an outside entity, because their caucus certainly doesn’t include any leaders. While the Freedom Caucus issued its false and feckless missive, the Senate Republicans met to choose their party leaders. The Senate GOP passed over any SDFC sympathizers and instead choose the usual crowd of mainstream Chamber of Commerce types who will support the ongoing reign of Senate King Lee Schoenbeck:
Casey Crabtree of Madison is the Majority Leader. Mike Diedrich of Rapid City is the Assistant Majority Leader. Majority Whips include Helene Duhamel, Jack Kolbeck, Ryan Maher and David Wheeler.
Lee Schoenbeck of Watertown is the party’s nominee for President Pro Tempore, which will be voted on by the full Senate in January [Perry Groten, “Republicans Choose State Senate Leaders,” KELO-TV, 2022.11.12].
Leaders lead with facts and solutions. The Freedom Caucus offers neither facts nor solutions and thus does not lead.