Eric Tegethoff

PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota and the rest of the country saw the number of uninsured children drop to historic lows in 2016, according to a new report.

The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found fewer than 5 percent of children nationwide are uninsured.

In South Dakota, the rate dropped from 6.7 percent in 2015 to 4.5 percent in 2016.

Dr. Nicole Poppinga is president of the South Dakota chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Both she and the Georgetown report cite the important roles of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, and the latter could expire at the end of the month.

Poppinga is convinced any Medicaid changes in the Republican health care bill proposed by Sens. Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham would hurt children, since children make up about 70 percent of Medicaid and CHIP enrollees in South Dakota.

Congress has until Sept. 30 to renew funding for CHIP.

The Cassidy-Graham bill to repeal and replace the ACA would make big cuts to Medicaid in the next decade, the number one source of health care funding for state budgets.

Georgetown report author Joan Alker is executive director of the organization. She says the bill in Congress does nothing to address the actual drivers of health care costs.

Poppinga says the state has a lot to lose if funding disappears.

“It’s just been so helpful to patients to have coverage and it prevents them from having further illnesses, having further complications of diseases, and it really can impact them in the long run,” she states.