Reforming the health system, advocating for medical homes for Medicaid patients, expanding Medicaid eligibility, and strengthening primary care are top issues for the South Dakota State Medical Association.

Read our legislative newsletter, InSession.

Read over our accomplishments during the 2019 legislative session

SDSMA's 2020 Advocacy Agenda

Pain Management and Prescription Drug Abuse

The problem of prescription drug abuse and its related health consequences is a significant public health problem. The SDSMA is at the forefront on this issue by providing physicians with helpful, evidence-based guidelines for prescribing opiate analgesics to both effectively treat pain and minimize patient risk. Through a special committee on pain management and prescription drug abuse, the SDSMA has developed the whitepapers, Opiate Analgesics for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain, and Effective Management of Acute Pain to serve as a resource for physicians and prescribers. This committee has researched evidence-based guidelines based on a review of the literature by a diverse group of highly trained physicians. 

Download the SDSMA whitepaper, Opiate Analgestics for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain.

Download the checklist for prescribing opiates for chronic, non-cancer pain.

Download the SDSMA whitepaper, Effective Management of Acute Pain.


Download the SDSMA's whitepaper, Marijuana as Medicine.


Medicaid is a state and federally funded health care program that provides essential health care services to low-income patients. Without Medicaid, thousands more South Dakotans would be uninsured. Currently, Medicaid covers 116,000 South Dakotans. 

To qualify, patients must be low income, though being poor does not mean a patient will qualify. For example, low-income childless adults are not eligible even if their income meets the state’s Medicaid income requirements.

Medicare and Medicaid, which now cover 35 percent of health care in the U.S., often pay physicians less than it costs them to provide services. Commercial insurance companies’ payment rates, computed largely as a percentage of Medicare, have followed the government-run programs. This leaves many South Dakota physicians struggling to keep their practices open. As a rural state, South Dakota faces tough challenges in providing access to quality, affordable care for all of our citizens.

The medical community understands the financial challenges facing South Dakota and our country, and that there are no easy decisions for policymakers when it comes to balancing the needs of the state with the resources available. However, cutting payments for health care services is not an effective tool for controlling health care costs, and often exacerbates the cost of care. Without physicians to see patients, the health care delivery system cannot be effectiv

The SDSMA advocates not just for adequate funding for the Medicaid program, but for Medicaid eligibility expansion for those who make less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level, and for the program to promote wellness and prevention, coordinated care for those with chronic diseases, and assurance that all Medicaid patients have a medical home. 


Every year for more than a decade, physicians faced a significant Medicare payment cut — the result of a flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. In 2015, after years of advocacy from the SDSMA, AMA, and other state medical societies, Congress passed historic SGR repeal legislation. This legislation contains core elements of a more reasonable and better-functioning Medicare program.

Strengthening Primary Care 

A primary care task force created by Gov. Dennis Daugaard in 2012 aimed to expand the state's educational capacity to train more primary health care providers for rural areas of South Dakota. The group was comprised of medical and health professionals, as well as policymakers. SDSMA Past-President Robert L. Allison, MD, represented the SDSMA on the task force. 

Task force recommendations focused on medical school class size, components of rural training for medical students, residency programs in the state, and physician assistant and nurse practitioner program capacity. Dr. Allison continues to serve on the task force's Oversight Committee to ensure accessibility to primary care for all South Dakotans -- particularly in rural areas of the state.