SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Two of the South Dakota candidates vying to serve in U.S. Senate want to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law, while the other two want to keep and improve it.
Former Gov. Mike Rounds, the Republican nominee for the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, said he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a market-based system that prompts competition. South Dakota used to have 17 companies providing insurance in the state, Rounds said, and the federally run marketplace serving South Dakotans offers only three options.
“American families make good choices if they know that some companies will provide appropriate service and others will not,” Rounds said. “It doesn’t take long in the market for the bad apples to be found out.”
Democratic candidate Rick Weiland said the act should be improved, not repealed, and the law’s problems stem from “big money calling the shots in Washington” and nixing a public option that would have forced private companies to offer more competitive policies.
Weiland said Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people aged 65 and over, is an example of an efficiently run public program and he’d like to open it up to people of any age. His proposed Medicare Choice Act would create public-private competition and strengthen the current system by expanding the pool of insured to younger, healthier Americans, he said.
“Why wouldn’t you use that model to make the private sector compete?” he asked.
An Associated Press-GfK poll last month shows that nationwide, public opinion continues to run deeply negative on Obama’s signature effort to cover the uninsured. Forty-three percent oppose the law, compared with just 28 percent in support.
Most of these polled said they found premiums in line with what they expected, or even lower. But more than one-third of those who said they or someone in their household tried to enroll, were ultimately unable to do so.
Weiland said Americans will not be willing to give up what they’ve gained in the law. Those new benefits include the ability for children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, the prevention of coverage denial for pre-existing conditions and the prohibition of lifetime caps on benefits.
Former Republican U.S. Sen. Larry Pressler, who is running as an independent, said the “Repeal Obamacare” talking point is too simplistic and the conversation has to be about what is it going to be replaced with.
“I’m for keeping Obamacare and improving it or fixing the problems,” Pressler said. “I don’t think we can go back.”
Pressler said there’s room for compromise on such issues as the 15-member board tasked with coming up with ways to contain Medicare spending. He said appointments could be limited to two years, and the panel could be more responsive to Congress if legislators are allowed to override the recommendations with a majority vote instead of supermajority.
The parties should also be able to find common ground on tort reform, allowing patients to sue but limiting awards to specific damages, Pressler said.
The other independent in the race, former state lawmaker Gordon Howie, said the recent troubles in the Veterans Affairs Department involving appointment scheduling and wait times at VA facilities show what can happen when the federal government is tasked with providing health care.
Howie, who sponsored a failed bill that sought to nullify federal health care laws within the state in 2010, said the law should be repealed and replaced with one that allows private companies to compete.
“I think it should be a free-market system and people should be in charge of their own health care,” Howie said.
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