PIERRE -- The state House of Representatives said Wednesday that patients in South Dakota should be allowed to choose their physicians and other health care services, rather than be limited to those under contract with the networks of their health insurance companies.
The Senate will take up th
e patient-choice issue next. The 39-30 vote by the House was a somewhat broader margin that opponents expected. The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Hal Wick, R-Sioux Falls, thanked House members for all of the time they gave to the matter.
“That was a big win for the people. That was a good win for the people,” Wick said afterward. “It will be harder in the Senate. But it can get through.”
Under House Bill 1142, the outside physician or other service chosen by a patient would have to agree to the terms of the insurance company in order to qualify.
Debate started last week but was cut off by a request from Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton, seeking a fiscal note estimating the impact on insurance costs for local governments.
The Legislative Research Council’s analysis was limited. The state Department of Labor was contacted, as were associations representing counties, cities, school districts, towns and townships
“Very few responses were received by the deadline given,” the LRC memo, signed by executive director Jim Fry, said. Responses “were not adequate to reach a significant, measurable conclusion.”
Opponents argued Wednesday that guaranteeing choice will interfere with free-market decisions by consumers in selecting insurance plans according to their affordability.
Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, said the bill would wipe out all of the contractual arrangements that are intended to produce lower rates.
Rep. Spence Hawley, D-Brookings, said networks make a difference and plans vary. He is an insurance agent.
“Based on the network you pick, you pay a different premium,” he said.
Passing the bill would destroy the efficiencies of network systems, Hawley warned.
“Common sense will tell you, that’s going to drive the rates up.”