If You're in Medicine, You're in Politics
By Christopher T. Dietrich, MD
SDSMA President

As we prepare for our SDSMA presidential district visits, several topics occupy our discussion and time. However, the only thing that’s certain during the legislative season is uncertainty. While the SDSMA has an experienced lobbyist, very significant and valuable advocacy takes place at a local level through our members. We cannot emphasize enough how important and valuable it is for physician members to establish and maintain relationships with your their elected officials. 

Every year decisions are made in Pierre that impact your ability to practice medicine. As health care policy continues to take shape, physicians cannot sit back and let others, many of who have no background in health care, decide our future.    If you are willing to visit with your local representatives but are unsure of what to say, contact the staff of the SDSMA for some materials and/or talking points to assist you with the discussion. 

If you are unsure who your local representative are, visit sdlegislature.gov.

This year, like every other, the SDSMA has been involved with a number of key issues.  This includes the amazing work performed by our SDSMA staff, several committee and task force members, our Board of Directors, and our Policy Council members. 

During the 2019 legislative session, the SDSMA will be bring forward two bills on telemedicine. Rural health care and access to high quality care are essential to our state. Telemedicine services are being effectively used as an alternate to traditional in-person health care delivery. SDSMA will be working to advocate for the passage of legislation designed to help establish standards of care for the use of telemedicine technology and to ensure payment for services rendered. 

Following the direction of our Policy Council (with a created position statement) this June, the SDSMA has joined The American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network, and The American Heart Association in public support of IM 25. This is an initiated measure on the November ballot that will raise tobacco taxes by a dollar per pack of cigarettes. The money raised will be used to reduce tuition at the state’s technical colleges. IM 25 is projected to raise $20 million annually for technical colleges while reducing the long-term health care costs from smoking. Tobacco use is a fiscal problem – even for people who don’t use tobacco. South Dakota pays more than $373 million annually in tobacco-related health care costs with an additional $282.5 million in lost productivity. It is estimated that each household pays $782 annually in taxes to cover these tobacco-related costs, whether they use the products or not.

The SDSMA has also been working to support the efforts of Life Circle South Dakota and  Avera Health who are leading an initiative for the adoption of a statewide MOST (medical orders for scope of treatment) form. This is a document is incorporated into the medical record and provides direction regarding a patient’s goals and preferences for end of life care. We look forward to working with state legislators to support the adoption and use of MOST.

 An Ad Hoc Committee on Prescription Drug Pricing, led by Dr. Victoria Walker, has been busy researching and drafting policy regarding prescription drug costs.  While the initiated measure regarding prescription drug pricing will not be on the November ballot, the SDSMA Policy Council will continue its discussions on this topic in November.  We thank Dr. Walker and the committee in advance for their efforts. In addition, the SDSMA is currently working with members of the South Dakota American College of Physicians, the South Dakota Academy of Family Physicians and the Sanford School of Medicine to promote the importance of graduate medical education. The members of this group have visited with the staff of our congressional delegates, and will be having a sit down meeting with Sen. Mike Rounds soon.

Lastly, we would like to bring your attention the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act of 2017. As proposed, this bill extends the liability insurance coverage of a state-licensed medical professional to another state when the professional provides medical services to an athlete, athletic team, or team staff member pursuant to a written agreement. This is an issue that the SDSMA and South Dakota American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation have been working together in hopes of achieving a federal solution since 2014. It appears as though those efforts have finally paid off as the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act of 2017 has passed both the senate and the house and awaits our president’s signature for passage. 

We are an association of engaged physicians, and I thank you for your involvement in advocating for our profession, patients, and health care in South Dakota.