Last November, voters ordered South Dakota to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act starting July 1. But CNN reports that South Dakota is one of five states leaping at the chance to boot people off Medicaid this month:
Millions of Americans are at risk of losing their Medicaid coverage in coming months, but residents in Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire and South Dakota will be the first to bear the brunt of the terminations.
States have been barred by Congress from winnowing their Medicaid rolls since the Covid-19 pandemic began. That prohibition ends on Saturday, and some states are moving much more swiftly than others to kick off those deemed ineligible for the public health insurance program for low-income Americans.
…Nearly 152,000 residents were enrolled in Medicaid in January, an increase of more than 30% from March 2020, according to the state’s Department of Social Services. But more than 22,000 people appear to be ineligible currently.
The agency said in an FAQ that it will prioritize reviewing folks who are most likely to be ineligible because they no longer meet a coverage group or their income has increased, among other reasons [Tami Luhby, “These 5 States Will Be First to Kick Residents off Medicaid Starting in April,” CNN, 2023.04.01].
DSS says reviewing Medicaid eligibility and booting people who no longer qualify will take nine to twelve months. DSS promises to notify folks it boots that they may requalify under Medicaid expansion in July, but Jen Dreiske of South Dakota Voices for Peace asks, why not just wait until July to start the review and protect low-income South Dakotans from up to three months of going without health insurance?
…that three-month gap can wreak havoc on low-income residents’ health, said Jen Dreiske, deputy director of South Dakota Voices for Peace, which is working with the state’s immigrants and refugees to inform them of the unwinding. These folks may have to go without their heart medication or their cancer treatment. They may also be afraid to go to the doctor because of the cost.
“Why can’t we just wait until July 1?” Dreiske said. “Our concern is that people are going to get sick or die because they’re not going to be able to access the health care that they so desperately need” [Luhby, 2023.04.01].
I know our state economy has been faltering, but we heard projections of increased tax revenue all through the just-completed 2023 Legislative Session. Surely we have some fiscal wiggle room to cover a few more Medicaid recipients for three more months, especially when that coverage is an investment in keeping workers healthy and on the job.