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Pressler wants Obama to visit SD even if he loses

Former Sen. Larry Pressler said he wants to help adapt Obamacare for rural America whether he wins or loses in November. (Denise Ross/Republic)

With his focus on adapting Obamacare for rural America, former Sen. Larry Pressler said he wants President Obama to visit South Dakota -- even if he loses his bid for election back into the U.S. Senate.

"It's doubtful he would make it out here during the campaign," Pressler said Wednesday, citing the long time frame needed to plan a presidential visit.

An invitation to the Democratic president to discuss his signature legislation -- the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- is appropriate, even though Pressler is not the Democratic nominee for the Senate, he said.

"I'm the only candidate in the election who is supporting Obamacare," Pressler said.

Republican Mike Rounds and independent Gordon Howie seek to repeal Obamacare, while Democrat Rick Weiland has argued for a universal care model that amounts to essentially an expansion of Medicare.

If Pressler, a former Republican, loses his bid for the Senate, he still wants to work as a volunteer to improve upon the nation's new health care law. The law could be tweaked to address challenges unique to rural communities, he said.

He suggests cooperatives similar to farmer's elevators or rural utilities to administer rural health care delivery.

"There are a lot of small towns where there is not a choice of a doctor," he said. "You say, 'I want to choose my doctor.' Well, that doesn't always work."

Pressler said there also is a need to bring aspects of Obamacare into the federally run Indian Health Service, and he wants tribal leaders involved in any Obama visit.

In his July 8 letter inviting Obama, Pressler proposes a conference be held in Pressler Park in his hometown of Humboldt.

"The conference will gather together Native Americans, small businessmen, senior citizens, farmers and ranchers, and several other groups from the spectrum of South Dakota," he wrote. "We are for keeping Obamacare and going forward."

Despite political rhetoric demonizing Obamacare, Pressler said he encounters South Dakotans every day who support the health care law, including county commissioners who often must find money to pay for care of indigent residents. And he has heard support for imposing controls on the costs of medications for Medicare recipients.

His invitation to the president is part of his campaign touting a centrist, moderate approach to issues, and Pressler overlapped his discussion of Obamacare with the Republican Party's work to drum up opposition as a polarizing, partisan issue.

"We have a Supreme Court ruling. We've been through this. You can't repeal it," Pressler said. "Even if Republicans win every conceivable (Senate) seat in question, they wouldn't have enough votes."

Pressler said he would tackle the substance of issues and avoid partisan rhetoric, and said an election win would be historic and would send a signal to the nation's politicians to curb partisanship.