SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — As Medicaid expansion starts in South Dakota July 1, the Department of Social Services will be looking for a new Medicaid director. 

Sarah Aker, who has been DSS’s Medicaid director since 2021, has been announced as the North Dakota Health and Human Services Medical Services Division director. According to a news release from North Dakota, Aker will replace an interim Medicaid director in North Dakota starting July 24 in Bismarck, North Dakota. 

The North Dakota news release says Aker “led the implementation of South Dakota’s Medicaid expansion program.” South Dakota voters passed Medicaid expansion 56%-44% in the 2022 election. 

KELOLAND News reached out to the DSS about Aker’s departure and asked who will take over as the state’s Medicaid director. Any response will be added to this story. 

Democratic Rep. Linda Duba, who serves on the appropriations committee, said Aker has been “critical to the whole process” of Medicaid expansion. Duba said she believes DSS has been preparing well for July 1 when Medicaid expansion starts.

“The timing is never good when you lose a person of high caliber,” Duba said.

Duba said lawmakers are gathering for a meeting on long term care in Pierre Monday and she believes more questions will be answered then.

Starting July 1, people who are age 19 but not yet 65 and have an income up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Limit can apply for Medicaid, which is the federal and state health insurance program.

The program will expand to allow for a single person making less than $20,000 or a family of four making less than $41,000 to receive Medicaid coverage. 

In January, Aker told state lawmakers 68 new full-time employees would be hired to implement the program which will be available to 52,000 South Dakotas, according to DSS. 

In April, Aker told the South Dakota Board of Social Services there’s been “really great responses to our job listings in a lot of areas,” Aker said. “It’s going pretty well in terms of our hiring.”

Aker told lawmakers DSS is estimating for a possible 52,300 to 57,530 people may enroll in Medicaid through 2024. Aker said one-third of the expansion population will be parents with children and 60% of the expansion population will be working.

Erik Nelson, with South Dakota AARP, said there should be no impacts on Medicaid expansion applications and the enrollment process. He said people should contact DSS and use the DSS website for resources related to eligibility, covered services, costs and other questions.