Sen. Thune Begins Work On Health Care Bill

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – It was one of the biggest promises President Trump made during his election campaign.

He was going to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Last week, House Republicans took the first step in doing this, passing Trump’s American Health Care Act.

But the Senate still needs to vote on the bill.

One organization hopes some big changes are made before that happens.

“The American Health Care Act as it reads now is a high cost, high risk health care bill,” says South Dakota AARP Director of Communications Leah Ganschow.

South Dakota AARP is making its opposition known.

The group fears that some people may have to pay a lot more for coverage.

“There is the age tax which is the piece of the bill that we particularly take opposition to,” says Ganschow. “The age tax would allow insurance companies to charge people over the age of 50 up to 5 times more than they charge everyone else.”

Ganschow says the new health care bill also puts those with pre-existing conditions like heart disease or diabetes at risk, since states could seek a waiver to opt-out of requirements that currently protect these patients.

“People with pre-existing conditions could see a cost increase of up to $25,000 a year,” she says.

But, the bill isn’t set in stone.

“Right now the Senate is giving consideration for what the House has done,” says South Dakota U.S. Senator John Thune.

Thune is one of 13 senators looking at ways to tweak the bill before it hits the floor.

“We have our own ideas, our bill will be different than theirs but we’ll build upon the progress they made,” says Thune.

One change could be made to tax credits.

Thune says in the House bill, the credits give too much assistance to the wealthy.

“The tax credit in my opinion needs to be adjusted more of the benefit to people who are lower income and elderly,” says Thune.

And as for those with pre-existing conditions, the Senator says “we want to make sure that people in this country who have pre-existing conditions know going forward that they’re going to have access to an affordable insurance plan that will cover them.”

Thune says senators are considering policies to help cover those who find it too hard to get health insurance, but that would require a lot of funding from the federal government.

Overall, he says the goal is to give individual states more flexibility to design health care plans that will fit their needs, rather than the whole country’s needs.

There is no timeline set for when a health care bill will hit the Senate floor, but Thune hopes it’ll happen before the end of the summer.

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