KOTA -- Next November, voters will decide on an initiated measure named 'Patient Choice,' after nearly 23,000 valid signatures were gathered and certified by petitioners.
Today, Steve Eckrich, one of three physician sponsors, explained how the measure would work.
'Patient Choice' would not only allow the patient to choose what doctor to see and what medical facility to use, but also would apply to any service or product paid for by an insurance company, even a prosthetic.
Rapid City nurse Mike Stevenson spoke in support of 'Patient Choice.'
He lost an eye as a child. With no one to make his prosthetic eye, he worked with Black Hills Eye Institute. The Eye Institute was out-of-network, but agreed to accept the lower in-network price for the prosthetic. Then, Stevenson's insurance company denied the claim.
Stevenson was forced to pay an additional $2,000 that he wouldn't have to pay if 'Patient Choice' were law.
"If you look back 20 years, everyone had a small town doctor, and saw the same doctor their whole life," Stevenson said. "Now if an insurance company comes in, you have to see someone else. That makes no sense."
Eckrich doesn't understand the opposition.
"I have a hard time understanding why anyone would be against the concept of a patient being able to choose the provider they want to see, that they have an established relationship with," he said. "That is what provides for the best care. So if it's not going to increase costs, which it's not, why would anyone oppose such a measure?"
Rapid City Regional Hospital and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield have opposed this effort, as have the Sanford Health and Avera in Sioux Falls. All successfully opposed the measure in the last South Dakota legislative session. That's why Eckrich and others decided to take this effort to the voting public.
The opposition maintains in-network insurance pricing works because it guarantees a certain volume of patients. Opposition says this initiated measure would increase medical costs for everyone.