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SD Senators Support New GOP Health Care Overhaul

Kealey Bultena

South Dakota’s United States Senators say their health care plan is better than the Affordable Care Act. Thursday Senate Republicans released a draft of the highly-anticipated health care overhaul bill.

US Senator Mike Rounds says the Better Care Reconciliation Act is more moderate than the US House health care overhaul bill. He says it's a draft until the congressional budget office scores the bill.

Rounds says the plan helps cover 13,000 additional South Dakotans who make little money. He says the bill offers states a waiver to eliminate Obamacare's essential health benefits, which means insurance companies can offer different plans. Rounds says that move supports people who get insurance on the federal market. About 77,000 South Dakotans use the health care exchange.

Rounds says the transition from the Affordable Care Act requires some time.

Credit Mike Rounds

“One in which the states have the opportunity to lay out the contracts that they would expect to create their own rules and laws and in many cases without having to get permission from the secretary of health and human services.  Then, to allow insurance carriers to go out and contract with providers. It takes time to do it," Rounds says. "As I’ve said, and I think most of you who have listened to me in the past, you can’t get this done before the year 2020, or 2021.”

The Senate health care bill repeals both the employer mandate and individual mandate penalty. Senators are using a process called reconciliation to pass the bill, so it needs only 51 votes to pass, rather than the traditional 60 votes.

The GOP plan also curbs spending on Medicaid. South Dakota receives less Medicaid funding over time for the insurance program that covers people with low incomes; it works through a state and federal partnership. This bill lowers the rate of inflation used to determine funding, and states get fewer federal dollars as Medicaid costs rise.

Thune says the plan "sustains Medicaid". Rounds says lawmakers aim to slow spending.

"Our goal is to recognize the difference, long term, between those that are high cost states and those that are low cost states. We’ve had multiple, multiple discussions with Health and Human Services about this," Rounds says. "They recognize that state’s like South Dakota, where we have low costs, they want to, through inflationary rates, they want to recognize the ability of places like South Dakota to actually bring up the prices, versus states that had a very high cost to begin with and have not managed their costs."

The federal government currently pays states based on their Medicaid needs. The US Senate Republican health plan eliminates open-ended reimbursement. Instead the bill funds states based on the number of people enrolled in Medicaid or offers states block grants.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).
Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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