HJR5004 defeated by the South Dakota Senate Health and Human Services Committee

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota voters might not get to decide after all whether they want to let the Legislature add a work requirement for people covered by expanded Medicaid eligibility.

The state Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Friday shot down HJR-5004 on a vote of 5-2.

That was despite support from one of the governor’s new appointees, state Social Services Secretary Matt Althoff, as well as the South Dakota Farm Bureau and the South Dakota Retailers Association.

The work measure, whose main sponsors were Republican Rep. Tony Venhuizen and Senate Republican leader Casey Crabtree, had previously won approval from the House of Representatives 60-8.

Opponents included many groups from the coalition that put the Medicaid eligibility expansion issue on the 2022 statewide ballot. A 56% majority of voters last November supported expanding eligibility and putting it in the South Dakota Constitution.

The only way to change the constitution is another statewide vote. Not wanting to override the voters’ will was a reason that Republican Sen. Michael Rohl gave Friday, after he called for HJR-5004 to be set aside.

The Legislature had a dozen years or more when something could have been put in state law, according to Rohl. “But we didn’t,” he said.

For other social-net programs such as TANF and SNAP, South Dakota requires work by those recipients when their personal situations allow.

People who want the Medicaid work requirement should have to gather signatures and submit them to get the question on the 2024 ballot, just as the Medicaid expansion supporters did for the 2022 ballot, said Jennifer Stalley, representing the Community Healthcare Association of the Dakotas and AARP-South Dakota.

Venhuizen said 13 states received Medicaid-work waivers and nine more applied during President Trump’s administration. Arkansas was the only state to get the requirement into effect, but a federal judge stopped it.

South Dakota was one of the states that had a waiver application pending. That was submitted while Dennis Daugaard was governor and Venhuizen was his chief of staff.

President Biden’s current administration doesn’t allow a Medicaid work requirement.

Venhuizen said on Friday that South Dakota voters should be asked whether they want to have a work requirement available, in case a future president allows it. “They get to tell us, yes it’s what we intended, or no, it’s not,” he said.

The state Department of Social Services administers South Dakota’s Medicaid program. Secretary Althoff told the Senate committee that his staff has “a full-court press” under way to meet the July 1 deadline for the expanded eligibility.

The state Senate has approved legislation to fund state government’s part of the expansion cost on a 28-7 vote. The House hasn’t yet set a hearing date yet for SB-149. Lawmakers will have nine days left in the 2023 session when they return on Monday.