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Visions from the ghost of Minnesota past: The 95,000 Minnesotans saved by Mark Dayton

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard shows what Minnesota would have been like if conservative gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer had defeated Mark Dayton in 2010.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard
Gov. Dennis Daugaard

If you want a glimpse of what Minnesota would have been like if conservative gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer had defeated Mark Dayton in 2010, our neighbor to the west, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, is showing us.  Since it’s the Christmas season, think of Daugaard as akin to Jacob Marley’s ghost from Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, introducing us to the Ghost of Minnesota Past.

To prove to his Republican base just how much he hates Obamacare, Governor Daugaard has refused to accept $11 billion in federal money to extend health care coverage to about 48,000 uninsured South Dakotans.   Daugaard is taking the same position championed by Minnesota’s former Governor Tim Pawlenty, Emmer, and Dickens’ character Ebenezeer Scrooge, who turned a blind eye to Tiny Tim’s medical plight.

Daugaard assures us that he has only denied coverage to “able bodied” adults, as if that makes it better.  The Kaiser Family Foundation calls that “only able bodied adults” claim into question.  It says that a single South Dakotan with a disability who earns more than $674 a month or owns more than $2,000 in assets currently can’t qualify for coverage in South Dakota. In addition, South Dakota children can’t get benefits from Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program if their family income exceeds 140 percent of poverty, which is $26,726 for a family of three this year.

This seems like a coverage gap that a leader would be anxious to fill, especially since the federal government is offering $11 billion to help.  As the Huffington Post points out, it is difficult to understand Daugaard’s fiscal logic.

If South Dakota were to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, its costs would be $5.6 billion between 2014 and 2022 while the federal government would send $11.4 billion to the state, according to the Urban Institute and the Kaiser Family Foundation. But if South Dakota doesn’t expand Medicaid, the state will still spend $5.5 billion more because it is responsible for more than 40 percent of the expense of covering the 6,000 residents already entitled to the program but not enrolled, according to the study.

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Governor Daugaard is effectively showing Minnesotans the Ghost of Minnesota Past.  If a Governor Emmer were now leading Minnesota the way Governor Daugaard is leading South Dakota, 95,000 Minnesotans would be ineligible for health coverage under Medicaid. Thousands more of our friends, family members and neighbors would be one fateful fall, crash, germ,malignancy, or clot away from medical bankruptcy.

Mr. Dickens crafted his Scrooge story as a direct critique of industrial capitalism in the wake of the passage of Poor Laws, which required poor people to work on treadmill power generators.  The novella was intended to motivate readers to be more compassionate to those who were driven into poverty as they struggled to adjust to the wrenching changes brought by the Industrial Revolution.  Just as Jacob Marley’s ghost warned Ebeneezer Scrooge, Dickens was warning the world that “Doom” awaited wealthy people like Mr. Scrooge who were ignoring the plight of the poor.

So, thank you Governor Daugaard, for reminding Minnesotans how fortunate they are to have 95,000 fewer uninsured Minnesotans in the Dayton era.  This action, taken by Dayton just a few days into his term of office, remains one of his most impactful achievements.  It made Mark look big, and Tim look tiny.  God bless us, everyone.

This post was written by Joe Loveland and originally published on Wry Wing Politics

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