A Major Victory for SD Credit Unions Yesterday!
by CUAD Communications

A more affordable employee healthcare option is soon likely to become a reality for South Dakota credit unions that are members of Credit Union Association of the Dakotas (CUAD). We are thrilled to report that SB 37 sailed through the South Dakota House floor late yesterday afternoon, and passed with a vote of 69 Yea, 0 Nay, and one excused.


SB 37 amends and modernizes the state’s current statutes relating to Association Health Plans. Essentially, the bill provides our CUAD Health Benefits Trust, and others like ours, the opportunity to request a waiver from the Director of Insurance, who could then grant us the authority to offer our Credit Union Health Benefits Trust to our South Dakota members, provided we meet all the South Dakota financial requirements in statute, as well as those in North Dakota.


Governor Noem could sign the bill as soon as next week, putting the last seal of approval on the legislation that CUAD has been supporting and advocating for over the past two South Dakota legislative sessions. The response from our members upon receiving this exciting news has been ecstatic.


“I am thrilled about the passage of this legislation,” said Keith Robbennolt, President/CEO of Sentinel FCU (Box Elder, SD). “This will allow my credit union, and many others in the state, to potentially offer more affordable quality health insurance for our employees. He continues, “Having the ability to offer affordable health insurance will help all credit unions to attract and retain quality talent within our operations. Plus, this will give the state’s credit unions the buying power of hundreds, if not thousands, where before we could only rely on the numbers of our individual credit unions to price health insurance offerings for our employees. Over time, this could save my credit union thousands of dollars annually.”


Mechelle Johnson, President of East River FCU (Madison, SD) is also excited about the potential this bill has for her credit union. “Health insurance is increasingly becoming an ever-larger burden for the credit union, at the same time that our choices for our employees are fewer and more expensive,” she stated. “It is very concerning to hear employees say they are not going to the doctor as they cannot afford the deductible. The passage of SB 37 allows the credit unions to come together, to potentially offer more health care options with more affordable premiums. It’s truly a win-win,” she added.


“It would have been easy for the association to do nothing, and just continue listening to credit unions raise concerns over rising health insurance costs,” says Jeff Schmidt, COO of Voyage FCU and CUAD Board Member. “But instead, Jeff Olson and his team took action and battled for two years to change legislation. Congratulations to Jeff and the entire CUAD staff on the passing of SB 37! Voyage FCU is looking forward to a future with more options and more control over our health insurance plan,” he concluded.


The Credit Union Association of the Dakotas Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement (MEWA) Association Health Benefits program is a $5.5 million-dollar health benefits trust that currently has 20 North Dakota credit unions participating and offers health insurance to over 1,100 credit union employees and their families in North Dakota.


Photos below show scenes from the SD State Capitol yesterday during the vote on SB 37. Provided by Jay Kruse. 




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