Low-income South Dakotans aren't giving up hope that the state will expand Medicaid coverage so they can afford a visit to the doctor's office. South Dakota is one of two-dozen states that has not expanded coverage through the federal Affordable Care Act. Several social service agencies called on Governor Dennis Daugaard Thursday to make more people eligible for coverage.
Retired construction worker Jim Croft says his Social Security checks aren't enough to cover his mounting medical bills.
"I'm on high blood pressure right now. I suffer from anxiety disorder and I've got pills and I pay out of pocket for that," Croft said.
Croft, who doesn't qualify for either Medicaid or Medicare, is also a caregiver to his ailing wife. Croft has to balance his own medical needs with those of his wife.
"My wife you know, she's got breathing problems. I got to make sure to regulate her breathing machine, the hoses and all that cleaned out," Croft said.
Croft hopes sharing his hardships will convince South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard and state lawmakers to open-up Medicaid coverage to more people who struggle with medical costs.
"They just live with their illness where they could have better health care provided to them so they wouldn't have to suffer so much," Croft said.
Health care professionals say stories like Croft's are not unusual for Sioux Falls.
"Every month, we see between 400 to 500 and 700 people and the vast majority of them, over 95 percent, would be eligible for Medicaid who don't have insurance," Avera Health Care Center Director Dr. James Barker said.
Health care advocates say Daugaard could fast-track Medicaid coverage on his own, without approval from the legislature. People like Croft hope South Dakota has the political will to embrace expansion.
In response to the group's call for Medicaid expansion, Governor Daugaard's office issued this statement to KELOLAND News: "The Governor and legislative leaders asked the Obama Administration to consider a flexible approach to Medicaid expansion, and unfortunately the Obama Administration is not willing to discuss that approach."