Congressional Roundup: Johnson bill supports hospitals serving low-income patients
Rounds reintroduces legislation on wetlands and mental health
U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, attends a February 2023 congressional committee hearing in Washington, D.C. (Rep. Dusty Johnson/Twitter)
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the latest installment in a series of periodic updates on the activities of South Dakota’s congressional delegation.
Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, introduced a bill last week that would prevent discrimination against health care providers or pharmacies that participate in a federal discount drug-pricing program.
The 340B program allows certain health care facilities, such as hospitals that serve low-income patients, to purchase prescription drugs at a discounted price. Johnson’s bill would prohibit insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers from discriminating against 340B participants, ensuring they are not excluded from insurance networks or penalized because they participate in the program.
“340B is an essential program for rural and low-income hospitals and patients,” Johnson said in a news release. “South Dakotans rely on this program to access affordable drugs and medicines they need.”
Wetlands and ‘bureaucratic overreach’
Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, reintroduced the NRCS Wetland Compliance and Appeals Reform Act, a bill that addresses the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Over time, it has veered far from that core mission, morphing into an overreaching, overbearing agency that makes heavy-handed decisions about South Dakota producers’ land using questionable methods and rationale. (5/6)
— Senator Mike Rounds (@SenatorRounds) April 4, 2023
The act aims to protect farmers, ranchers and landowners from what Rounds called the “bureaucratic overreach of the NRCS” and empower producers to continue managing their land as they see fit.
“South Dakota’s farmers, ranchers and landowners know their land better than anyone else,” Rounds said in a news release.
The bill has been endorsed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and South Dakota Farmers Union.
Conservation groups dislike a number of provisions, including one to prohibit farmers and the government from entering into permanent easement agreements, and another placing the burden of proof on the NRCS to prove a landowner has improperly drained a wetland, rather than placing the burden on the landowner to prove innocence.
Rural mental health
Rounds also reintroduced legislation that seeks to expand mental health and substance abuse services to rural areas and the farming, forestry and fishing industries.
The Home-Based Telemental Health Care Act of 2023 would create a grant program to help health providers offer telemental health services to people who may not have easy access to health care facilities. The legislation would authorize up to $10 million in grants for each fiscal year through 2027.
“Not only does this save time and resources, it provides an important mental health service for our farmers and ranchers, who for years have suffered economically due to challenging weather, trade disputes and price disparities,” Rounds said in a news release.
The state’s three major health care organizations and multiple agricultural organizations said the act would help South Dakotans in rural areas receive quality care from the comfort of their homes, saving time and resources.
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