Legislative Report By Sen. Joe Reedy During the last week of session two proposals that help families and individuals covered by managed health care plans were signed by the governor. The first bill, SB 235, requires that managed care providers describe their coverage to consumers in clear, truthful and objective terms. I strongly supported this bill because all too often families select a managed care plan based upon incomplete and confusing information. The second bill, SB 236, established certain standards for managed care plans. As a community, we have certain minimum expectations of our health-care providers. It is important that we clearly state what these standards are.
During the session, I also supported HB 1013. This bill allows people covered by a managed care network to be covered for emergency treatment outside the plan's list of providers if necessary. This bill has also been signed by the governor.
Although we managed this year to pass some good legislation regarding health care, I was deeply disappointed when some of my Republican colleagues failed to support the governor's proposal to accept federal money to expand the insurance coverage of poor children. This proposal would have actually saved us money because the additional 3,000 children already have their catastrophic medical needs covered by Medicaid. If these kids had decent insurance, they would receive the sort of routine medical care that reduces medical costs by reducing the need for much more expensive catastrophic care.
We also managed this session to take some first small steps towards helping our ag producers by passing a mandatory livestock price reporting bill and by creating a small fund for financing feasibility studies for value-added ag projects.
Unfortunately, the two other significant concerns of our state, wages and education, received little successful attention this session.
I supported a lot of proposals this session that would help us raise wages and improve both our K-12 and higher education. The dominant mood in Pierre, however, remains opposed to any legislation that might help working families help themselves. Despite the fact that we have the lowest wages in the nation, despite the fact that we have the highest percentage of mothers who must work outside the home, despite the fact that we have the highest percentage of double and triple job holders, the powers in Pierre are more concerned with finding new ways of giving taxpayer money to large corporations than they are with passing truly pro-family legislation.
I supported a proposal that would have required companies receiving taxpayer subsidized loans to pay wages slightly above our low local averages. I supported a proposal that would have required large employers to give due notice to employees before mass layoffs. I supported an increase in the minimum wage. But majority sentiment defeated all of these moderate, common-sense proposals.
Bizarre as it may seem, the majority forces in Pierre continue to oppose education. Myself and others supported legislation that would have provided incentives for our school teachers to pass a very rigorous national certification test. We also tried to provide incentives for welfare recipients to go to school and develop job skills. Both these proposals were defeated. Mickelson scholarships were defeated as well.