by Helene Duhamel
If you have a good relationship with your doctor, it's understandable that you would want to keep it. You don't want to be forced to find a new doctor because your insurance company says so.
This is essentially the fight between many doctors on one side, and hospitals and insurance companies on the other.
Dr. Steven Eckrich operated on a broken ankle a few years ago. It was a bad break requiring a plate and screws. Years later, the patient wanted the hardware in her ankle removed. But because of a change in insurance, she could not have Eckrich do the surgery.
"She had to drive to another doctor, 50 miles away," explains Dr. Eckrich. "She wasn't happy. I wasn't happy. Think of patients with chronic diseases-diabetes, hypertension, depression. Suddenly a doctor is no longer able to follow them anymore. That's not good patient care. Not good medicine."
Dr. Eckrich is one of three doctors leading the charge to get enough signatures to bring an initiated measure to the November 2014 ballot.
It's called "Any Willing Provider".
"The physician agrees to take whatever fee schedule, reimbursement scheme, and there's no fee for out-of-network," explains Dr. Eckrich.
But this type of legislation has already failed a couple of times in Pierre, with the opposition of all three big hospitals in South Dakota.
Rapid City Regional Hospital Director of Governmental Affairs, Scott Zieske, says it would end up costing businesses and patients by driving up insurance rates.
"A group of companies get together and negotiates the lowest prices they can for a specific provider network that's based on a projected volume for the number of people covered. If you start adding providers, everyone has less business. That drives prices up, not down," says Zieske.
He maintains it's a fight between not-for-profit hospitals and for-profit facilities and providers.
"This is promoted by a small group of physicians in for profit situations, such as for-profit surgical hospitals with profit margins upwards of 40 percent."
Zieske says if they get enough signatures for the initiated measure, Rapid City Regional will oppose it. Zieske says, "It ends up escalating health care costs, making one segment of the industry wealthy.' This increases the costs for everyone."
Eckrich contends, "If you like your doctor, sign the petition, vote for the bill."
Dr. Eckrich says starting Monday, September 9, 2013, you will see petitions at most medical offices - doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists.
They need to collect about 16,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.