UPDATE: American Cancer Society and Farm Bureau on opposite sides of South Dakota SB-87

KELOLAND.com Original

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A South Dakota senate bill that has passed the House of Representatives is drawing criticism from the American Cancer Society (ACS), which is calling for Governor Noem to veto it when it comes to her desk.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS-CAN) says the bill would undermine patient protections, and would result in higher insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs for South Dakotans.

KELOLAND News spoke with David Benson, the ACS-CAN government relations director, about the organization’s objections to the bill.

“As a new consumer looking for health insurance, this is going to create some challenges where if you’re put into a situation where you have a serious injury or illness, and you don’t realize there may be a cap in terms of how much is being paid out on medical expenses or prescription drugs, until you get to the point where you’re dealing with that reality.”

Another issue Benson highlighted is the number of unknowns that this bill creates. Because this bill is not very long, he says, there are not a lot of requirements that the plans need to meet.

Furthermore, Benson expressed concern over the bill’s effect on the insurance marketplace as a whole, saying that this bill would allow non-profits to take on only the youngest, healthiest or least costly individuals, it could leave the rest of the populace facing higher premiums.

We also spoke with Scott VanderWal, President of the South Dakota Farm Bureau, the organization who put forth the bill.

VanderWal pushed back against the ACS’ assertion that this bill would result in higher costs for South Dakotans, saying that there were three groups that this bill would target: non-elderly uninsured individuals, those who do not qualify for affordable care act subsidies, and couples who have one spouse working outside of the family business in order to gain health insurance.

“They’re not currently people that are members of the ACA coverage, unless it’s just that small group that doesn’t qualify for the tax credits,” said VanderWal. “If you’re under an employer plan, you’re probably not going to be interested in our program because that’s provided to you by your employer — the biggest group would be people that don’t have coverage, and that won’t affect the ACA.”

VanderWal acknowledged that the plan would allow organizations to deny coverage to those with underlying health conditions, but argued that this plan was not for such people in the first place.

A major target of the bill would be farmers and ranchers who VanderWal says are sometimes sole-proprietors of their business, and do not qualify for employer plans.

Discussing a criticism that was leveled at the bill, VanderWal said that if an individual were to develop a severe illness, they would not be dropped. “We’re going to stay with you as long as you pay your premiums and remain a member of Farm Bureau,” said VanderWal. “That’s just the way we do business.”

When asked if an individual could be dropped in such a situation, VanderWal said he did not know if consumer protections would allow that to happen, but stated that apart from legal protections, there are moral obligations to make sure people are taken care of.

KELOLAND News reached out to three of the state legislators who sponsored this bill, but we have not received a response.

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