NU Online News Service, July 15, 10:45 a.m. – South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow has appointed a task force of citizens who will study health insurance in the state and recommend policy options for the governor and the legislature to consider.

“One of the biggest issues facing us in South Dakota is the availability and affordability of medical care, specifically as it pertains to insurance,” Janklow says. “Maybe the answer is there is no answer, but we’ve never taken a really good look at it. This ranks with education as one of the biggest unsolved issues in the state.”

The 21-member panel will be cochaired by state Sen. Dan Sutton, a Democrat from Flandreau, and former state Rep. Steve Cutler, a Republican who currently is South Dakota director for the federal Farm Service Agency in Huron.

The task force will take testimony from the insurance industry, medical providers and other interested parties and will use data and analysis from a study of the uninsured population of South Dakota that the state Department of Health completed earlier this year.

South Dakota was one of 20 states that received federal funding to study its uninsured population, according to the state’s Division of Insurance.

Among the study’s findings: About 8.1% of South Dakotans are without health insurance, for a variety of reasons; approximately 4.4% of South Dakota children under age 19 are without health insurance.

“I hope they look at issues such as companies pulling out of South Dakota, the income levels of consumers versus price of coverage, whether mandates make a difference and whether people are left without coverage when a company leaves and they have a pre-existing condition,” Janklow says.

There is no deadline for the panel to finish its work.