I told them not to do it. The GOP spin blog told them not to do it. But twenty legislators have done it: they have chosen to cave to Sanford Health’s pressure and sponsor House Bill 1067, which would unravel the “Any Willing Provider” health insurance initiative passed by 62% of South Dakota voters in 2014.
The statute we created in 2014 (Chapter 58-17J) requires insurers to allow any willing, qualified physician in their coverage area to participate in their health insurance networks. Essentially, this means that if your employer provides health coverage from Sanford, you can still go to your own non-Sanford doctor, and your non-Sanford doctor can bill the Sanford insurance plan.
Sanford, of course, doesn’t like that. They want their insurance to drive business to their hospitals and clinics. So they offer the following amendments to undermine the people’s intent:
- HB 1067 defines “panel of providers” as “a list of all health care providers under contract with a health insurer for inclusion in one or more of the health insurer’s health benefit plans.”
- HB 1067 allows Sanford and other insurers to continue to offer plans with exclusive networks, as long as they offer at least one plan that obeys the “Any Willing Provider” provision: “All health insurers shall offer for sale at least one health benefit plan approved by the division that contains all of the health care providers which are in its panel of providers. However, nothing in this chapter limits a consumer’s ability to purchase, or a health insurer’s ability to offer for sale, health benefit plans that contain less than all of the health care providers which are in a health insurer’s panel of providers.”
The folks who sponsored Initiated Measure 17 say Sanford is trying to gut the Any Willing Provider law. Led by Dr. Stephen Eckrich of Rapid City, backers send out this press release decrying Sanford’s resistance to the popular will:
“This is an insult to the people of South Dakota,” says Dr. Stephen Eckrich, a Rapid City physician. “When the vast majority of the public say they are in favor of choosing their own doctor, they have spoken. However, Sanford thinks they are above the law and are putting their selfish interests ahead of the will of their patients.”
When IM 17 became law, every health care provider and insurance organization complied with patient choice except for Sanford Health Plan. They refused.
Dr. Eckrich adds, “This bill is an egregious example of an attempt by one special interest to subvert the legislative process and ignore the will of the people of this state. Who is the legislature going to listen to? It’s our hope they will not be bullied by Sanford Health or their dozens of lobbyists. The people deserve to have their voice heard” [Patient Choice for South Dakota, press release, 2016.01.20].
Who are the legislators so egregiously enabling Sanford’s effort to subvert the legislative process and ignore the will of South Dakota voters? HB 1067 lists the following twenty sponsors:
Representatives Rounds, Beal, Conzet, Cronin, Dryden, Hawks, Hawley, Jensen (Alex), Otten (Herman), Partridge, Peterson (Kent), and Willadsen and Senators Peters, Buhl O’Donnell, Haverly, Rusch, Shorma, Solano, Sutton, and Tidemann
Seventeen Republicans undermining the initiative process I can understand, but four Democrats?* Senator Angie Buhl O’Donnell, Senator Billie Sutton, Rep. Spencer Hawley, and (ulp!) Rep. Paula Hawks, our candidate for U.S. House? Democrats! We are the party of democracy! We are the party that listens to the people and respects the initiative process! As I hit the campaign trail this year to defeat Referred Law 19 (SB 69, the incumbent protection plan) and especially Referred Law 20 (SB 177, the youth minimum wage), I will be making a big deal about how we need to un-elect legislators who fail to respect the will of the voters as expressed in ballot measures. Respecting initiative and referendum is a key to Democratic success in this cycle. By sponsoring HB 1067, Senator Buhl O’Donnell, Senator Sutton, Rep. Hawley, and Rep. Hawks are undermining that message and undermining a key advantage Democrats can use to win in November.
Initiated Measure 17 appears not to have triggered the onerous government control or the higher costs that opponents claimed Any Willing Provider would bring. Absent evidence of such harms (and we’ll be listening closely for such evidence in House Commerce and Energy when it takes up HB 1067), there is no reason for Democrats or Republicans to undo the Any Willing Provider law passed by the people of South Dakota.
Correction 16:53 CST: My original story left Senator Billie Sutton (D-21/Burke) out of the count of Democrats sponsoring HB 1067. I apologize for that error.