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Daugaard: South Dakota seeking Medicaid work requirement

January 9, 2018

FILE - In this Dec. 28, 2016 file photo, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard describes his priorities for the rest of his term at the state Capitol in Pierre, S.D. Daugaard, South Dakota's governor since 2011, is entering his final legislative session beginning, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/James Nord, File)

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota is going to ask the Trump administration to allow the state to require some Medicaid recipients to work to qualify for the government-funded health coverage for the poor, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Tuesday in his State of the State address.

The change would apply to about 4,500 low-income, able-bodied parents who are not caring for a child under the age of 1, Daugaard told state lawmakers gathered for the first day of the 2018 legislative session. The governor proposed piloting the new requirement in Minnehaha and Pennington counties.

“Work is an important part of personal fulfillment,” Daugaard said. “By making this adjustment to our Medicaid program, we can continue to help those who need it the most and start to connect those who can work with jobs that give them that sense of self-worth and accomplishment.”

Daugaard said he has asked the state Department of Social Services to pursue the work requirement waiver. The average monthly Medicaid enrollment was roughly 120,000 people last state budget year.

Joan Alker, executive director at Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families, said low-income parents are not driving the costs of the Medicaid program.

“We’re talking about the very, very poorest families in a state, and applying a work requirement to these parents, the majority of whom are women, is in my judgment counterproductive, it’s fiscally inefficient, and it’s just downright cruel,” Alker said.

During the current legislative session, the Republican-controlled Legislature will make a new state budget and take up policy proposals on issues ranging from the state’s ballot question system to the use of lakes on private land for recreation. Legislators will adjourn in late March.

Daugaard asked lawmakers to extend an expiring law that restored access to nearly 30 specific lakes for public recreation that was curtailed by a state Supreme Court decision. The rules were the product of a special legislative session last year on so-called nonmeandered waters. The governor’s bill would move the law’s June expiration date to 2021.

House Democratic leader Spencer Hawley said he supports the extension because too little time has passed to evaluate issues with the law.

“We need to extend this,” he said. “We need to work with it.”

Daugaard said he’s also proposing legislation that would make South Dakota microbrewers more competitive with those in surrounding states. He noted that current law caps South Dakota craft brewers at 5,000 barrels of beer annually, compared to 60,000 in Montana, 50,000 in Wyoming and 25,000 in North Dakota.

The governor’s proposal would increase the limit to 30,000 barrels per year.

The governor has made workforce development a key policy focus. He said South Dakota doesn’t have enough workers in many skilled fields, which is a barrier to economic growth.

Officials are encouraging high schools to expand the availability of apprenticeships, internships or job shadowing during school, Daugaard said. And he’s pushing a new law to create a professional licensure reciprocity compact with other states.

Daugaard looked back on his time in office during the final State of the State address of his second term, saying he’s pleased with progress on boosting teacher pay and that revenue increases for road and bridge funding are “being put to good use.” The 64-year-old Republican cannot run again this year because of term limits.

“I look forward to working hard with you, over this session and over this, my last year, to make South Dakota a better place than it is today,” Daugaard said.

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Follow James Nord on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Jvnord

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