By Associated Press - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Tuesday that he’s convinced South Dakota can expand Medicaid without adding to state spending, but now he must weigh its chances of passing through the Republican-held Legislature.

The GOP governor said if the plan appears politically viable, he would like to call a special legislative session in June or July. Daugaard has proposed expanding eligibility to roughly 50,000 more residents, as long as the state’s share of the cost is covered by savings.

His stance marks a departure from many other Republican governors who have resisted expanding Medicaid as part of the federal health care overhaul.

Officials have been studying for months whether a federal move to take on more Medicaid costs for Native American enrollees would allow South Dakota to cut spending enough to offset paying for expansion.

The governor said he believes the arithmetic works, giving a major boost to the chances the health coverage program for low-income and disabled people would be expanded.

But the plan - which would require majority support in both legislative chambers - could face a lukewarm reception from Republican lawmakers.

“If there’s no possibility, then I’m not going to call a session and waste everyone’s time,” Daugaard said.

The majority of current House GOP lawmakers don’t support expansion because they oppose Obamacare and because Medicaid is a large welfare program without much accountability that the country can’t afford, House Republican leader Brian Gosch said.

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