PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s Medicaid program is on track to start offering benefits to thousands more people on July 1.

Voters last November approved expanding eligibility to cover people whose household income is up to 138% of the federal poverty level.

State Medicaid director Sarah Aker on Tuesday briefed the South Dakota Board of Social Services.

The official estimate is that 52,000 more people will become eligible, she said.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Social Services in February began reviewing current Medicaid recipients to determine whether they will remain eligible as the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

Enrollees rose from 114,689 in March 2020, when the pandemic began in South Dakota, to 152,263 in February 2023.

Aker said the department is following a federal recommendation that one-ninth of enrollees get reviewed each month regarding COVID-related eligibility. The earliest that COVID-related coverage could end was April 1.

Aker said the department tracked people’s Medicaid-eligibility conditions and income data during the pandemic. She said officials anticipate that approximately 22,000 will gradually lose COVID-related Medicaid coverage in South Dakota.

The names of the 22,000 were shared with their primary healthcare providers, according to Aker.

Board member Karen Michels of Yankton asked how many of the 22,000 could enroll again when the expanded eligibility opens. Replied Aker, “It’s a little challenging because we don’t have up-to-date income data for that group.”

She added that’s why the department does “a very specific screening” during the redetermination process.

The governor requested 68 more full-time positions in DSS to handle the expansion. “We’ve had really great responses to our job listings in a lot of areas,” Aker said. “It’s going pretty well in terms of our hiring.”

South Dakota Medicaid’s pregnancy-related benefits also will expand July 1.

Currently, pregnancy coverage is limited to services including pre-natal care, labor and delivery, hospitalization due to delivery, and treatment of medical issues caused by the pregnancy or that directly affect the health of the baby.

Starting July 1, pregnant women will receive full Medicaid coverage.

Postpartum coverage under Medicaid also will be expanded on July 1. Currently, postpartum coverage is limited to the postpartum exam, family planning and medical conditions directly related to pregnancy and/or delivery, for 60 days.

Effective July 1, postpartum women will have full Medicaid coverage and postpartum coverage will extend to 12 months after delivery.

Aker told the board that most postpartum issues occur after the 60-day period.

The governor also received from the Legislature $3.1 million to support the creation of a new “Pregnancy Health Home” to deliver enhanced care management for pregnant Medicaid recipients. Aker said one goal is fewer newborns needing intensive hospital care.

The federal poverty guideline for South Dakota in calendar 2023 is $14,850 for a household of one. For the expansion to 138%, it will be $20,120.

Click here for the current household-size income listings for South Dakota Medicaid eligibility.