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Flexibility and Innovation in Healthcare

We’ve learned all kinds of lessons over the past year due to COVID-19. Folks rediscovered the beauty of the outdoors. Hopefully, our kids learned the importance of washing their hands. And we all learned the importance of flexibility and adaptability.


America has made incredible advances in healthcare over this past year. We saw all kinds of innovation because we gave medical professionals the flexibility to do their job. And this year, my administration is bringing forward a number of initiatives to make South Dakota’s healthcare system more innovative, flexible, and affordable.


Let me start by saying that we have excellent healthcare here in South Dakota. Our three major health systems – Avera, Monument, and Sanford – have all done tremendous work, especially in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year as we dealt with the virus, I instituted several executive orders to increase flexibility for South Dakota’s healthcare providers. And now, we’re going to make those changes permanent.


Last year, we suspended restrictions on telehealth so that folks could see a doctor without having to go into the doctor’s office. We saw folks utilize these tech services more than 70,000 times in South Dakota’s Medicaid program alone. Along the way, we realized just how powerful of a tool telehealth can be for innovation in healthcare. In 2021, we’re going to build on these advancements and ensure that telehealth innovation is here to stay.


Additionally, we allowed for recognition of out-of-state medical licenses for people moving to South Dakota. We’ve seen lots of folks move here in recent months, and more are coming. By recognizing their out-of-state licenses, we can immediately hire these folks to work in South Dakota healthcare, where we always have workforce needs.


In both telehealth and license recognition, we know that these flexibilities work. We haven’t heard any major complaints or concerns as to their implementation over these last several months. So we are going to make those executive orders permanent, and this past week I introduced legislation to do just that.


We are going to continue to strengthen South Dakota healthcare by welcoming these successes, building on them, and leaving flexibility for even more innovation into the future.


And I have more proposals coming soon to continue to improve South Dakota healthcare. For example, we know that healthcare can be expensive, and South Dakotans deserve to be able to see those costs up-front so that they know what they’re paying for. In the coming weeks, my team will be introducing a bill to guarantee price transparency for South Dakotans who need to pay for healthcare.


I’ve talked many times about focusing on challenges as an opportunity to innovate and adapt. Our healthcare providers faced unprecedented difficulties this past year. And they proved, time and time again, that they were up to the challenge. In 2021 and into the future, we should continue to build on what we learned this past year. Let’s continue to give our excellent medical professionals the flexibility to thrive.