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  • Writer's picturePam Cole

Medicaid Expansion Group Hires Former SDDP Executive Director as Grassroots Organizor

Updated: May 18, 2021

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, March 2, 2021

For More Information:

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Dakotans for Health, an emerging group of public officials, caregivers, health care advocates, and concerned citizens supporting the expansion of Medicaid announced today that former South Dakota state senator and Democratic Party Executive Director Pam Cole will join their citizen-led effort.

Grassroots organizers, in collaboration with Dakotans For Health, are hopeful they will obtain the nearly 65,000 signatures needed to place a Medicaid expansion measure on the 2022 ballot as an amendment to the state’s constitution. Cole plans to enlist the help of volunteers statewide in the organization’s efforts.

“This critical grassroots effort is the most immediate and direct way of helping people in our state. We all know someone that falls between the cracks and doesn’t have adequate health insurance or healthcare coverage,” stated Cole.

South Dakota remains one of only twelve states in the country that has yet to offer access to Medicaid health insurance to thousands of South Dakotans, many who are working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. According to the nonpartisan South Dakota Legislative Research Council (LRC), the Medicaid expansion measure, if passed, would cover over 42,000 South Dakotans who make less than $17,000 a year, 133% of the federal poverty level.

The LRC also estimated that in the first year of implementation, South Dakota would receive $301,800,000 (million) in Federal support for up to a $20,800,000 (million) investment, a +15:1

return on investment (ROI). South Dakota has the highest percentage of uninsured low income adults (18-65) in the entire nation.

“Medicaid expansion is not only the right thing to do; it would also be a shot in the arm for our state’s economy. It will shore up our ailing rural healthcare systems, fortify too-often tapped county budgets, and help our rural economy. I am ‘all in’ and excited to devote my energy to continuing to build a robust grassroots effort to ensure this measure gets on the 2022 ballot.” Said Cole.

Currently in South Dakota, Medicaid covers adults with a qualifying disability, or if they have a child receiving the benefit. This leaves out adults working jobs that provide too little to cover the rising cost of healthcare premiums. These lower-paying jobs are often in the service and tourism industries, and employers are not required to offer health insurance.

“Some have said ‘able bodied’ citizens should be able work and obtain the health insurance they need. A simple math problem tells us otherwise; many people just don’t make enough to cover living costs of rent, gas, food, and utilities. Healthcare insurance is entirely out of reach for them.” Continued Cole.

Cole is also very concerned about the healthcare Native Americans sometimes don’t receive in the state.

“In many ways, Indian Health Services (IHS) is ‘life and limb’ meaning there’s limited access to preventative or therapeutic care. It is basically what we think of as ‘major medical’. Medicaid Expansion can work hand-in-hand with IHS and help our native citizens to live longer, more healthy lives.” Said Cole.

An added concern is the impact of Covid-19 on the population. With the focus on the pandemic, and fear of contracting the illness, many South Dakotans delayed routine healthcare the past year. Some have also lost jobs, or taken jobs that pay significantly less. Isolation and financial insecurity have taken a toll on their physical and mental health overall.

“A healthy population is a productive population.” stated Cole. “Our interest is to help break down barriers to people’s success. So many of our fellow citizens struggle mentally, physically, or suffer from addictions and need assistance to tackle these issues. This is not a partisan issue, but a solution to a problem that has badly affected many South Dakotans.”

“Pam knows how to organize and we are excited to have her on board.” said Adam Weiland, co-founder of Dakotans for Health. “We have a little less than 11 months to collect 65,000 signatures to secure ballot access. We are confident we will get this done. Who can be against providing 42,000 of our fellow South Dakota access to affordable healthcare and a 15-1 return on investment? This is a no brainer.”

Efforts to gain the necessary signatures have been ongoing since November of last year. Cole will start an aggressive series of signature gathering events with a kick off in in Sioux Falls this week, then move across the state as Cole reaches out to other grassroots collaborators.

Update: Cory Heidelberger at the Dakota Free Press wrote an excellent Story on Dakotans for Health Grassroots Organizing Director Pam Cole and her fantastic work. You can read it HERE.


About Dakotans for Health

Dakotans for Health, an emerging group of public officials, caregivers, health care advocates, and concerned citizens supporting the expansion of Medicaid. We have released COMPREHENSIVE MATERIALS for our volunteers to start circulating a petition for a Constitutional Amendment to expand Medicaid. Get yours today!


Help Secure Ballot Access for Medicaid Expansion

Make a donation to help expand Medicaid in South Dakota. You can donate online via ActBlue HERE. You can Make a donation via check our money order HERE.

Message from Montana Governor Steve Bullock to South Dakotans circulating Medicaid expansion petitions

Join our Grassroots Network and start circulating a petition!

Circulate a Medicaid Expansion Petition (How to)

Want to circulate a petition? We have been on the streets since November of last year! You can find everything they need to HERE. Want to learn more about Medicaid Expansion (reform)? You can read Dakotan's for Health's general Medicaid Expansion FAQ HERE. Want to make a donation to this effort? You can do so via ActBlue HERE.

HHS Deputy Secretary Mary Wakefield opening remarks on Medicaid expansion in South Dakota


South Dakota is one of twelve states who has yet to expand Medicaid under the ACA
North Dakota expanded Medicaid in 2015. The program has brought hundreds of millions of additional dollars into the state:
Montana expanded Medicaid in 2015 as well. The program brings an additional $600 Million a year to the state:

Visual Learner Summary: according to the fiscal note released by the South Dakota Legislative Research Council last July, South Dakota, upon the expansion of Medicaid, will $15 back for every $1 it puts in. A 15:1 Return On Investment.

#MedicaidExpansionSD #Medicaid #MedicaidExpansion #SouthDakota #NorthDakota #Montana


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