PIERRE - After passing the house, the bill to force insurers to accept free patient choice in healthcare providers was voted down resoundingly in the South Dakota Senate. Had it passed, networks of approved healthcare providers would have been a thing of the past for South Dakotans.

As it stands, insurers often contract with doctors and hospitals in order to get discounted rates for their insured patients. In true I scratch your back and you scratch mine fashion, patients are penalized with substantially higher out of pocket costs for going to any healthcare providers other than those on the list.

The issue created a strange debate with patients’ rights advocates and certain doctors and hospitals on one side, and on the other the large healthcare systems, which also act as insurance companies and take customers from competing insurers by offering highly discounted rates at their own facilities. Opposition to the bill on the floor of the Senate was actually led by legislators who also work for Avera and Sanford.

If you are wondering why the principal opponents to changing the current system are big hospital chains, and not big insurance companies, consider this: right now discounted rates may mean lower costs in terms of what insurance companies pay out, but that does not have to translate directly into lower rates charged to customers. If the preferred network system ended though, you can bet that the higher costs to health insurers would all find their way into the premiums paid by patients. If it is heads the insurance companies win, and if it is tails then you lose.

While giving patients the freedom to choose whichever doctor they want to see is an admirable goal, this was a flawed piece of legislation that shouldn’t have passed in its current state. Without some sort of cost control mechanism, all of us would have ended up paying more.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Gossom and do not reflect Results Radio, Townsquare Media, its sponsors or subsidiaries.