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Allowing States to Waive Health Care Standards Sets Worrisome Trend [OPINION]

John Thune
Alex Wong, Getty Images

The details of the Senate’s health care reform package are getting analyzed after the much-anticipated release on Thursday (June 22).

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he wants to have a vote next week, before the Independence Day break.

There’s a lot to sort out, and really nothing is firm, even if the Senate approves the bill next week. The entire package will need to be negotiated by a conference committee with members from both chambers.

However, there is a theme that South Dakotans should pay attention to.
Both the House and Senate plans allow states to get waivers for some elements of the plan – mental health coverage – or let insurance companies charge more – pre-existing conditions.

Given the state’s track record, it’s a strong possibility that offered the chance to opt out of mental health benefits, it will. And if the Legislature and governor think they can save some coin by allowing higher costs for pre-existing conditions, they will.

The concerning bit about that possibility – beyond the personal costs for people who can often least afford it – is that it allows for even wider gaps in health care between states.

Should a South Dakotan really have a lower level of access to mental health coverage, or pay more for a pre-existing condition, than a Minnesotan or an Iowan? That’s a very real possibility and, I believe, won’t serve the best interests of the citizens of our state.

We’ll see how it shakes out.

I’ll probably have more to say on this topic on the The Patrick Lalley Show on Monday. We hit the air live at 3, with the “P&L Statement” coming in about 3:15. Catch the first half-hour live on Facebook at my account for now.

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