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New GOP health care act takes initial steps in House committees

"Flexibility" and "affordability" were two key words emphasized by U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem Thursday as the GOP's plans to repeal and replace Obamacare surfaced this week.

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"Flexibility" and "affordability" were two key words emphasized by U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem Thursday as the GOP's plans to repeal and replace Obamacare surfaced this week.

The American Health Care Act was introduced this week by GOP leaders to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and on Thursday the new legislation passed through both the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.

Noem took the opportunity Thursday in a press call to stress the main points of the new legislation, which she said will offer South Dakotans more freedom when making health care decisions.

"Obamacare did a lot of things to drive up cost. We're approaching this in a much different manner," Noem said Thursday morning. "We want costs to go lower, and by repealing the taxes in Obamacare ... those will make things even more affordable for those low and middle income families."

Noem said the American Health Care Act will eliminate individual and employer mandate penalties, dismantle the Obamacare taxes, repeal health insurance tax and maintain critical patient protection. She added that the new legislation will also replace "flawed" Obamacare subsidies, as well as enhance an expense savings account.

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"There's a lot of reform packed into this legislation," Noem said.

As the bill moves through the committees process, Noem said she and other GOP leaders hope to get the bill to the House floor in "the next couple of weeks."

U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds also shared his thoughts on the repeal legislation Thursday during a media call, describing Obamacare as a "sinking ship."

"The reality is this product that we've been living with since 2010 most certainly has seen a skyrocket in premium increases and at the same time has continued to be one heck of a burden with regard to the cost involved for the federal government as well," Rounds said.

Rounds' call took place shortly after the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced the legislation Thursday afternoon, becoming the second committee to approve the Obamacare repeal legislation.

Rounds added that the challenge is now transitioning away from Obamacare and into the new form without hurting anybody, and also allowing a "fair market program" for companies to compete for business once again.

The plan was introduced by Noem, along with other officials in the Ways and Means Committee, after hours of discussion ensued into early hours of the morning, which did not impress the South Dakota Democratic Party.

​"Rep. Noem's rushing a bill through committee in the dead of night to hide from public scrutiny is not leadership," the South Dakota Democratic Party said in a statement Thursday. "Neither is dodging constituents by refusing to hold public events in our state. Her profound lack of leadership should not be rewarded with the keys to the governor's mansion."

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The party continued to demand more answers from Noem, including how many South Dakotans will lose health care, how much premiums and other out-of-pocket expenses will rise for families, as well as how much more state seniors will be asked to pay for health care.

The Democratic Party will hold a press conference and rally Friday responding to the health care plan at 1 p.m. at the Sioux Falls VFW, located at 3601 S. Minnesota Ave.

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