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South Dakota 2021 Legislative Session Review

The 2021 South Dakota Legislative session has officially come to an end. The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increased interest and focus on healthcare. Overall, it was a good session for healthcare, with several key pieces of legislation passed into law that will positively impact the healthcare community. Several bills posed obstacles to healthcare delivery but In the end, healthcare had more wins than losses.

A few key pieces of legislation that fall into the win category include:

House Bill 1046 which limits liability for COVID-19 and protects healthcare facilities and professionals for actions or inactions that occurred due to COVID-19, including the use of pharmaceuticals for an unapproved use, screening, assessing, diagnosing, caring for, or treating persons with COVID-19, as well as delays or cancelling of non-urgent care, and diagnosing or treating patients outside the normal scope of care.

Telehealth was a winner this session, with expanded broadband under Senate Bill 34 and Senate Bill 96 which codified telehealth flexibilities issued under Executive Order by Governor Noem during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Several bills that support the healthcare workforce were also passed this session. House Bill 1077 codified licensure by endorsement flexibilities that were utilized during the COVID-19 public health emergency, while House Bill 1065 adopted a licensure compact for Emergency Medical Technicians. House Bill 1195 adds certified registered nurse anesthetists to the Recruitment Assistance Program. The legislature also appropriated funding for individuals who have completed the recruitment assistance programs this year under House Bill 1021.

Senate Bill 167 establishes a regional nursing home designation with the ability to access enhanced Medicaid funding.

Killing bad legislation is just as important as helping to pass good legislation. Two of those bills focused on vaccinations which was a contentious topic. House Bill 1159 sought to establish a right to bodily integrity, but was defeated handedly in committee. However, the vote on House Bill 1097 was much closer. This bill would have allowed for philosophical exceptions to vaccinations required for school entry, substantially eroding the requirements. It died in commitee with a  7 to 6 vote.

The rights of counties and towns to enforce public health measures was also under scrutiny this session. House Bill 1136 which would have prohibited counties and municipalities from taking actions related to health or the suppression of disease in conflict to the SD Department of Health. House Bill 1093 which sought to limit municipality’s ability to take action related to the promotion of health or suppression of disease. Both measures were defeated.

One of the biggest challenges was House Bill 1247 which would have granted broad conscience protections to healthcare workers, and impeded healthcare operations. The bill passed out of the House State Affairs Committee, but died on the floor of the House of Representatives with a 24 to 41 vote.

House Bill 1154 modifies laws related to unlawful contracts by prohibiting employment contracts for certain healthcare providers from containing provisions restricting competitive employment practices. It narrowly passed the Senate, and was signed by the Governor with an effective date of July 1, 2021. The language in the measure applies to contracts that create or establish provisions of employment, including partnerships contracts and any other professional relationships for physicians, physician assistants, certified nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, certified nurse midwives, registered nurses, and licensed practical nurses. SDAHO has a prepared a legislative brief available on our website.

Medical marijuana took center stage in Pierre this session, as expected. There were several attempts by Governor Noem to delay implementation of the medical marijuana program. House Bill 1100 originally sought to delay implementation until July 1, 2022, but was modified on the House floor to move implementation to January 1, 2022.  Measure 26 will become law as passed by the voters on July 1, 2021. SDAHO is closely following the administrative rule making process and closely working with the Department of Health on topics effecting healthcare facilities. SDAHO has put together a comprehensive education series on medical marijuana and is working on additional resources. Both are available on our website.​

This was a record year for revenue in South Dakota. The Governor’s proposal to give a 2.4% increase to healthcare providers stayed intact during legislative session. The Joint Committee on Appropriations increased the Governor’s targeted rate increases, moving all community-based providers to 100% of their methodology. Long term care received a total 8.6% increase with the move to 100% of methodology. The rate increases will take effect on July 1, 2021. We anticipate another record year in 2022.

To learn more about healthcare related legislation or any of the bills SDAHO actively tracked, you can find the archived history on each measure on our bill tracker page.

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