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Lawmakers discuss long-term care ahead of next legislative session

Brent Duerre

The State Study Committee on Sustainable Models for Long Term Care met with multiple health organizations in the state to develop a listfor legislative consideration.

The committee's main recommendations included state telemedicine services for long-term care facilities, an all-inclusive care for the elderly program and consistent in-home care.

Sen. Jean Hunhoff is the Chair of the committee. She said the goal of long-term care should be to create a sustainable answer.

“Lets go back to the basic, where does everybody want to be? They want to be in their home. And if we can provide it there, that seems to be the highest quality of life that we can find for these individuals that is appropriate for them,” said Hunhoff.

Others pointed to feasibility concerns. Rep. Chris Karr said some solutions could come with unintended consequences.

“A lot of these recommendations I hear are all good, fine, and dandy," said Karr. "You know, creating the daycares and doing all these extra things and all these extra services but they all take staff, employees, so who's gonna do the work?”

One option discussed was virtual health care. Dr. Victoria Walker is the Medical Director at Avera eCare. She told the committee telemedicine is one of the best tools available to medical professionals who support homebound patients.

“We can check people’s temperature, we can look in their throat, we can look in their ears. It's really a pretty sophisticated tool that is right their in that cart. And that goes anywhere in the building that you need it to go. So if somebody has a fall in the dinning room, you can go to the dinning room, if they’re in their room and they don’t feel like getting out of bed you can go into their room,” said Walker.

LRC staff will condense the list of the recommendations. They will then be voted on during the next committee meeting. The final recommendations will be presented during the 2024 legislative session.

The South Dakota Association of Health Care Organization also issued a warning in Monday's meeting about what they said are possible detrimental effects of a federal rule change.

The rule in question is a minimum staffing standard for long-term care facilities developed by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Tammy Hatting is the organization’s Chief Operating Officer. She said the rule would place increased staffing pressures on an industry that already has trouble finding enough workers.

“I call the proposed rule kind of the tornado warning of the storm. We don’t know if this will hit us or not. If it does, some of my members that I’ve had conversations with said that it will be financially catastrophic, and that is the consensus across the United States,” said Hatting.

Without federal dollars and a widening gap in registered nurses throughout the state, Hatting said the best hope is that CMS drops the proposed requirement.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.