SD Senate blocks changes sought for ambulance service paymentsPIERRE — The maneuvering turned hostile Thursday as the state Senate rejected an attempt at changing financial arrangements between insurance companies and ambulance services.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — The maneuvering turned hostile Thursday as the state Senate rejected an attempt at changing financial arrangements between insurance companies and ambulance services.
Sen. Ried Holien, R-Watertown, wanted to allow all ambulance services to be able to be paid directly by insurance providers, rather than have the checks sometimes sent to the patients.
But Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, convinced 18 other senators to completely rewrite the bill through a major amendment. After losing to Brown on the amendment, Holien urged that the legislation be killed.
“I have to turn on this bill,” Holien said. “It (Brown’s amendment) was brought at the last second two days ago, completely gutting the intent of the bill.”
The Senate then gave Brown what he really wanted to achieve. Senators voted to kill the Brown version 26-7. Holien said people in some South Dakota communities haven’t been paying ambulance services even though their insurance providers have sent the money to them. In some instances, he said, they have been taking monthly ambulance rides specifically to make money. Another challenge comes during emergency situations, when ambulance services provide the help without checking on insurance.
“Right now, they’re in limbo. It’s a horrible limbo,” Holien said. He said Rapid City officials claimed they’ve dealt with thousands of insurance providers over the years and have had problem only with three companies, all from South Dakota.
Brown, whose family is in the insurance business, argued that Holien’s original version would have allowed a third party to make a claim on a contract between the insurance provider and the patient.
Brown said “a lot of other folks” will line up year after year to make claims on those contracts, too.
Brown said ambulance services in some cases have declined to agree to participating contracts with insurance providers where the rates are set in advance. He said the ambulance services want to collect payments from the insurance providers and also bill the patients for any outstanding balances.
Holien was supported by Sen. Mark Kirkeby, R-Rapid City. “We are certainly taking an honorable shot at a flaw we have in our system,” Kirkeby said about the Holien version. “We’re all for private business and capitalism. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked in Rapid City.”
After the Brown amendment was passed 19-14, Sen. Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, agreed with Holien that the bill should go away.
Soholt said there already is a system in place that works for ambulance services willing to sign contracts with insurance providers, just as other healthcare providers do.