Here’s wishing you a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year. And, here’s to a productive 2014 Legislative Session! That being said, the overall theme of the 2014 Legislative Session should be “Government Working for the Common Good of all South Dakotans”. A huge part of working for the common good in 2014 would be the expansion of Medicaid to the working poor in our state.
Following the Governor’s Budget Address, I asked Representative Susan Wismer, a CPA from Britton who serves on the Appropriations Committee, to analyze what the actual impact of expanding Medicaid would be for South Dakota. She stated: “Increasing Medicaid provider rates would give us a 132% return on our money. In other words, for every additional dollar we invest in Medicaid rates, the federal government would invest more than a dollar, not to the state’s coffers, but to our nursing homes, our community support providers (persons who take care of those who cannot take care of themselves), and into the pockets of our nurses’ aides. Further, expanding Medicaid would give South Dakotans a 386% return on our money as it would cost the state only the administrative costs to get medical coverage for approximately 48,500 working South Dakotans, paid for completely by federal Medicaid dollars for the next five years. In real dollars this equates to a $600,000 expenditure from state government to receive $232,000,000 from the federal government in the first full year alone.”
So why is there hesitation by our Governor and other officials when the benefits far outweigh the expenses? Basically, it boils down to four myths about Medicaid Expansion for South Dakota. I will list the myths and briefly give key facts about expanding Medicaid:
Myth 1-”Medicaid is already taking up a huge percentage of our state budget and the Medicaid expansion will only increase it. Key Fact: The total additional state spending over the first six years of the Medicaid expansion represents only a 2.8% increase over what South Dakota would have spent on Medicaid during that timeframe without Medicaid expansion-and that does not include many potential state budget savings. (In fact, independent estimates bring the total state cost of Medicaid expansion below 1.7% of our state’s annual budget.)
Myth 2- The federal government can’t keep its promise to fund its portion of the Medicaid expansion because federal debts and deficits are out of control. Key Fact: The Medicaid expansion is paid for entirely with a mix of higher federal taxes and spending cuts, so expanding Medicaid keeps South Dakota’s federal tax dollars in our state without adding a cent to the federal deficit.
Myth 3-Medicaid is bad coverage. Why expand a broken system? Key Fact: Medicaid makes a significant difference
A few weeks ago I wrote about a piece of legislation that I plan to sponsor in this upcoming legislative session called “Come Home to Hunt”. It would allow residents who have a hunting license the ability to sponsor a non-resident family member for a non-resident waterfowl license. Currently, the non-resident family member must enter the non-resident waterfowl lottery system in early July for a possible chance at a license. The bill would also allow any non-resident military personnel (veteran or active duty) who were born in South Dakota the ability to obtain a non-resident waterfowl license without going through the same lottery. These military members have given a part of their life to allow us the freedoms that we enjoy, and I feel it is only right to allow them to come home to hunt waterfowl in their native South Dakota without being required to enter a lottery.
Let me share some statistics of the current non-resident waterfowl lottery system. There are currently 4,000 non-resident waterfowl licenses available through the lottery system which started in 1998. Since the first year, the number of applicants for these licenses has exceeded the number of licenses available, thus many non-residents are not successful in obtaining one. The number of applicants for the lottery in recent years has been near 6,000 with a peak in 2012 of 5,987. From survey information, the top counties that these non-residents hunt waterfowl in are Day, Brown, Clark, Roberts, Marshall, and Kingsbury.
Now I am going to share some of the non-resident 10 day small game license information which is the measurement by which the state tracks the number of non-residents coming to our state to hunt pheasants. From 2009 through 2012 the average number of these licenses issued per year was just short of 100,000 with a peak in 2010 of 102,010. In 2013, that number dropped to 76,286 for a 20% decline from 2012 and a 22% decline from the previous four year average and a 25% decline from the peak in 2010. The Game Fish and Parks’ (GF&P) annual budget is almost entirely dependent upon the fees that they generate. The non-resident 10 day small game license fee of $125 equates to about a $2.4 million drop in revenue for the GF&P from 2012. It would be safe to say that retailers across the state have also been affected by this decline.
The percentage of non-residents allowed under the lottery system to come to our state to hunt waterfowl is in the 4 to 5% range of those that come to hunt pheasants. My bill would allow 100% of family and native born military members.
You can contact me at 350-1371 or by email at email@example.com.