SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A lot of South Dakotans over the age of 50 support Medicaid expansion.
That’s what AARP South Dakota State Director Erik Gaikowski found from a survey his organization conducted with registered South Dakota voters over the age of 50. He said of the 1,000 people they polled, nearly 800 supported passing Medicaid expansion.
“It crossed all party lines. Whether it’s Democrat, Republican or Independent, they all support it to a very high degree,” Gaikowski told KELOLAND News.
AARP released the results of its survey the day after South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett announced a ballot measure to expand Medicaid eligibility in South Dakota would appear as Constitutional Amendment D on voters’ Nov. 8 ballot.
Gaikowski said he wasn’t surprised by the number of people over the age of 50 supporting medicaid expansion. He said that polling is similar to other more conservative states like Utah, Oklahoma and Missouri that have passed medicaid expansion.
“It’s a good number to have,” Gaikowski said. “I think voters realize that the way you save rural hospitals and rural health care systems is by passing Medicaid expansion.”
Gaikowski said some of South Dakota’s rural health care centers could be in danger of closing if medicaid isn’t expanded.
“From an AARP perspective, our members want to stay in their communities for is long as possible and one of the ways to do that is to keep those health care centers open,” Gaikowski said.
Before voters vote on Amendment D, they’ll be voting on Amendment C in the June 7, 2022 primary election. If Amendment C passes, it would force a 60% majority requirement for any measures that propose to add or raise taxes or would cost state government $10 million or more per year.
Despite facing a possible 60% threshold and attacks from officials like Gov. Kristi Noem, Gaikowski, who has worked in government relations for different organizations the past 20 years, said he sees a strong coalition building behind Medicaid expansion.
“It’s one of the broadest coalitions I’ve ever seen,” Gaikowski said. “It’s hospitals. It’s doctors, nurses, farmers, teachers and the 50+ population with AARP. It’s making sure South Dakota is protecting its workforce.”
AARP is one organization of dozens under South Dakotans Decide Healthcare, which is spearheading the campaign. It lists Avera, Monument and Sanford as endorsing Medicaid expansion along with the South Dakota Farmers Union, South Dakota Nurses Association, American Cancer Society, Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas, Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, the South Dakota State Medical Association, South Dakota Education Association.
Last year, Noem spokesman Ian Fury told Public Broadcasting Service she promotes “consumer-driven alternatives” and said, “expanding Medicaid is not the answer to accessing quality healthcare in South Dakota.”
Currently, South Dakota is one of 12 states that hasn’t adopted Medicaid expansion. South Dakota’s Legislative Research Council said if expanded, Medicaid would be made available for more than 42,000 South Dakotans in its first year.
“It is for the working poor,” Gaikowski said. “These people need medical attention and the ability to access that care.”