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Thune says Obamacare repeal few weeks away

The first steps to repeal and replace Obamacare are expected to surface in the next few weeks, according to U.S. Sen. John Thune. The third-term Republican senator on Friday toured the new Avera Family Health Center, located on the Grassland Heal...

U.S. Sen. John Thune talks with Dr. Theresa Campbell Friday at Avera's Family Health Center, which was completed nearly a year ago. (Sara Bertsch / Republic)
U.S. Sen. John Thune talks with Dr. Theresa Campbell Friday at Avera's Family Health Center, which was completed nearly a year ago. (Sara Bertsch / Republic)

The first steps to repeal and replace Obamacare are expected to surface in the next few weeks, according to U.S. Sen. John Thune.

The third-term Republican senator on Friday toured the new Avera Family Health Center, located on the Grassland Health Campus, and met with patients and staff who asked Thune about issues they were facing, including the high costs of pharmaceuticals. But what many were curious about was the future of health care coverage.

Thune said proposals will start to come forward in the next few weeks, first going through the House for a vote. Legislation doesn't happen overnight, Thune said, noting that the months of trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act gave the GOP time to develop what he believes to be a high quality, patient-centered health care coverage system. And with that states will be given flexibility, he said.

"Then the whole issue with what we do with the Medicaid program," Thune said. "You'll see some sort of shift where states have more flexibility. Federal government pushes more resources for the state and allows them to design and customize Medicaid solutions that work best for them and their constituencies instead of a one-size-fits-all from Washington."

The proposals will also include protections for people with pre-existing conditions and how any new changes in coverage will impact them, Thune said. Funding will be provided to states to create high risk pools to ensure people with these pre-existing conditions also have access to coverage.

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Thune also said the public can expect an expansion of health savings accounts for people to cover incidentals, deductibles and other areas that insurance companies might not cover.

"You'll also see very likely some sort of refundable advanceable tax credit that individuals can use to buy insurance that will act as a substitute for the replacement for the Obamacare exchanges but would rely more on giving the patient choices and options," Thune said.

The tour of Avera's Family Health Center was provided by the clinic manager Ryan Raml. Raml said it was very important for Thune to see the day-to-day operations of the facility and the issues health care professions are facing in today's environment.

As a professional within Avera organization, Raml said he would like to see Thune address the Medicaid expansion, as it's something that affects not just the hospital, but the entire region the medical group serves.

"It will dramatically affect Avera Queen of Peace and the city of Mitchell. We've got to honestly come back to making health care affordable to our communities," Raml said. " ... We can deliver the best health care in the world, but if they can't pay for it or if we bankrupt them and they ultimately can't pay their other bills, I'm not sure we're doing them a service."

The high cost that Raml pointed out, Thune said, is the main issue he and other legislators hear about in regards to health care. To address this, Thune said it all comes down to affordability and what moves the federal government can make to fix these problems.

"We want to put solutions in place that will impact in a positive way what it costs people to cover themselves and their family. I think we're getting there," Thune said. " ... It won't all happen at the same time, you'll start seeing a step-by-step approach to undoing the damage and harm caused by Obamacare and try to put in solutions that will be more affordable."

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U.S. Sen. John Thune talks with Avera Clinic Manager Ryan Raml Friday in the dialysis unit of the Family Health Center. (Sara Bertsch / Republic)
U.S. Sen. John Thune talks with Avera Clinic Manager Ryan Raml Friday in the dialysis unit of the Family Health Center. (Sara Bertsch / Republic)

Related Topics: JOHN THUNE
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