Rep. Fred Deutsch is the Republican socialist of the week. He wants Medicaid to pay for chiropractic services. — The South Dakota Standard

Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence) says in his literature that he doesn’t think much of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Retired chiropractor Deutsch asks, “does the government do anything cheaper than the private sector?”  His answer: “A big NO.”

But what does he answer in the legislature when he gets a chance to steer federal Medicaid money to his fellow chiropractors in South Dakota?  He comes up with a big YES. As reported by Cory Heidelberger at the Dakota Free Press blog, when House Bill 1103 (which was originally written to provide Medicaid funding for dental services) went to the House Health and Human Services last week, committee member Deutsch (his clinic in Watertown is seen above in an image from Mapquest) made a motion to add chiropractors and optometrists as recipients of said money.  Motion passed.

This morning H.B. 1103 passed 34 to 1 in the state senate and is headed for a signature by Gov. Noem.  She has been opposed to Medicaid expansion, but this bill is narrowly focused enough to make it a far cry from full expansion. It adds services available to existing Medicaid recipients, but doesn’t add new recipients to the program, which is what expansion advocates (like me) want. At most, this bill is just a baby step toward true Medicaid expansion in South Dakota.  That might spook her into a veto but considering the resounding support the bill got in the legislature, it seems likely she’ll go along.

H.B. 1103’s easy passage in the legislature says a lot about how Republican contempt for socialism in any way. shape. or form makes for great sound bytes, but becomes easily embraceable when the reality of it applies to actual people needing actual care that they can’t otherwise afford. That the added classes of health care providers will be upping their incomes as a result of this legislation is a fact, so a trace of cynicism regarding Deutsch’s intentions is a natural reaction. Ultimately, though, in the context of how much good will come out of this legislation, the self-serving element of it is irrelevant.

Dr. Deutsch gets kudos on this one.

He probably knows more acutely than most that a lot of financially strapped people could have used his services over the years but bypassed them because they didn’t have the means to give him a call.  I commend Fred Deutsch for opening up opportunities for chiropractic services to many thousands of underserved South Dakotans.  

I also note that Deutsch and other anti-socialist Republican officials in our state government (Kristi Noem tweeted last year that “socialism destroys lives”) should lighten up on the rhetoric, especially when it comes to federal financing of healthcare.  The end of a healthier population of South Dakotans justifies the means of using federal dollars to make that happen.  

John Tsitrian is a businessman and writer from the Black Hills. He was a weekly columnist for the Rapid City Journal for twenty years. His articles and commentary have also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Denver Post and The Omaha World-Herald. Tsitrian served in the Marines for three years (1966-69), including a 13-month tour of duty as a radioman in Vietnam.



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