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Rounds careful to commit early support to GOP health care overhaul

Ever-optimistic U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds sees Thursday’s Senate health care overhaul as a step in the right direction, although he did not pledge support to the bill.

During a conference call Thursday, the South Dakota Republican senator was hopeful about Senate Republicans’ second attempt at a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“I think we’re gaining momentum,” Rounds said.

Rounds confirmed he would like to see the bill find its way to the Senate floor for discussion, but declined to say if he would ultimately support the bill, citing uncertainty about which amendments could be tacked onto the proposal.

While Rounds was optimistic about the bill, Thursday’s proposal will face an uphill climb on its quest toward approval. The bill needs 50 votes to pass — plus a tiebreaker from Vice President Mike Pence — but fellow Republicans U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Rand Paul, of Maine and Kentucky, already said they do not support the latest proposal.

The South Dakota Democratic Party also spoke out on Twitter to stand against the GOP plan.

“A few cosmetic changes won’t change the fact that the bill will hurt SD families to give tax breaks to the rich,” the S.D. Democrats said in the social media post.

But Rounds said an Obamacare replacement could cut premiums by 30 percent by 2020.

The new version of the bill allows health savings accounts to be used for insurance premiums, offers $45 billion dedicated for substance abuse treatment and recovery and eliminates the individual and employer mandate penalties, among several other changes. It would also allow affordable health plans with less coverage to be introduced into the market.

Prior to the changes, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the initial Senate Republican plan would cut Medicaid spending by $772 billion over 10 years.

The new plan would also retain some ACA taxes that were cut under the initial GOP proposal. Under the first Senate Republican plan, those taxes benefitting higher-income Americans would have been repealed.

While he couldn’t throw his full support behind the bill yet, Rounds has his sights set on a transition away from Obamacare.

“Right now, I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Rounds said.

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