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Panels used to study SD health care

PIERRE -- The Legislature will face many decisions next winter regarding the future of health care services in South Dakota. The agenda has largely been already set by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who has no less than five task forces and working groups in the start-up stages.

They're focused on Medicaid reforms, insurance exchanges, infant mortality, assisted-living regulations, and more community delivery of behavioral health services such as for substance abuse, developmental disabilities and mental illnesses.

Deb Bowman outlined the plans and activities Monday in a telephone conference call with members of the state' Health Care Commission. She is part of the governor's senior management team.

Bowman will be working with Lt. Gov Matt Michels along with members of the governor's Cabinet, such as Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth and Social Services Secretary Kim Malsam Rysdon, in an aggres sive push to have recommendations ready on some topics as early as September and October and everything done by no later than mid-December.

The timetable calls for Daugaard to deliver recommendations to the Legislature for action in 2012 so the decisions can be put into effect in 2013 and 2014.

The commission was created in 2003 by the Legislature during then-Gov. Mike Rounds' first year in office. The commission won't have any formal role in reviewing or approving recommendations from the Daugaard task force groups.

Bowman said however the governor is purposely including legislators whenever possible in the task forces and working groups, and members of the existing commission are being asked to either themselves serve or suggest others who would be good candidates.

Hollingsworth said the infant-mortality initiative will feature at least three public meetings and have a broad spectrum of people from the health care fields at the table for discussions and planning, including tribal officials and federal Indian Health Service professionals.

"This will be a very inclusive process, a very public process," she said.

One of the topics being tackled by the Daugaard administration comes at the suggestion of managers in the assisted-living services area, who have suggested a review of state regulations would be timely.

Reforms in delivery and availability of behavioral health services will take place over several years, officials said Monday. They said the governor's executive reorganization order that moved behavioral services from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Social Services was the first step in making changes toward more communitybased access.

Bowman said there will be new "guiding principles" established as part of "re-setting" the behavioral services system.

The Medicaid task force will split into four subcommittees looking at pharmacy services, physician services, community-based services and patientcenter services at hospitals and health-care homes.

South Dakota's share of Medicaid costs likely will rise in the coming year as the federal government adjusts its formula based on the relative strength of each state's economy.

Because South Dakota is doing relatively better, Bowman said, South Dakota probably will have to pay another 1 percent to possibly 1.5 percent of each dollar spent. That means additional state costs of $7.5 million to possible $11 million.

"This is a huge task that's been put on us in the industry," Gale Walker of Parkston said. He is the health care commission's chairman.

"We'll get nowhere if we don't work collaboratively on it," Walker said.