FARGO – North Dakotans will die if the current healthcare system is stripped, Democratic candidates said as the Republican-led war on Obamacare was launched, yet again.
“People are going to die if the insurance companies are allowed to decline coverage for pre-existing conditions,” attorney David Thompson said in a radio interview.
Thompson is the Democratic-NPL endorsed candidate for North Dakota Attorney General, and he has called out current Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem for trying to add the state into a Texas lawsuit that seeks to completely invalidate the Affordable Care Act.
“Wayne Stenehjem signing onto this lawsuit is not only unconscionable, because of its potential impacts for nearly 300,000 North Dakotans who have pre-existing conditions, but it was also illegal,” Thompson said in a press release. “If a judge sides with Stenehjem and the 20 other AGs who are pursuing this case, people with chronic diseases like diabetes or cancer will most likely be priced out of the insurance market with few options to get the high-quality care they deserve.”
The Texas lawsuit, filed on February 26 by 20 states, bases its argument on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 by saying the Affordable Care Act “forces an unconstitutional and irrational regime onto the states and their citizens.” The lawsuit alleges that because the tax cuts eliminated the Obama-era penalty for being uninsured – thereby no longer raising tax revenue – the law is no longer constitutional.
So far, Republicans have met behind closed doors and attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act twice, and failed.
The Democratic candidate for US Congress, Mac Schneider, agreed with Thompson, saying he plans to join a bipartisan effort to keep what is working in the current healthcare system, and fix what isn’t.
“There are few [issues] that are more personal than the issue of healthcare,” Schneider said during a press conference. “My approach is straightforward: keep what works and fix what is broken. It has been a true success for the state, and the numbers tell part of the story.”
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has helped nearly 20,000 North Dakotans find health insurance through Medicaid expansion between the fall of 2013 and June 2016, and has guaranteed those that have pre-existing conditions can find affordable providers, he said. The uninsured rate dropped 54 percent during the same time frame, Schneider said.
“The impact goes deeper than statistics,” Schneider said. “In my practice as an attorney I see the following scenario just about every day: someone suffers a medical emergency, because of their health they can’t continue in their job, because they don’t have a job they don’t have employer-sponsored health insurance, because they don’t have health insurance, they can’t get access to quality health care, because they can’t get access to care, their condition deteriorates further and they’re unable to reenter the workforce. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be done. North Dakota recognized that under Medicaid expansion.”
Because of Medicaid expansion, passed in 2013, many people today who suffer pre-existing conditions have found treatment, and are now able to reenter the workforce.
“Let’s set ideology aside and focus on health care policy rather than health care politics, unfortunately the opposite is happening in Washington,” Schneider said. “The administration’s attempt through its Department of Justice to undermine protections in the law that prohibit insurers from denying and discriminating against individuals with pre-existing conditions, is wrong.
“It is politics and partisanship over people’s health.”
Today, approximately 300,000 North Dakotans have pre-existing conditions, and in time, nearly everyone will have such a condition, Schneider said.
“My opponent on the other hand was one in a small minority who voted no on Medicaid expansion,” Schneider said. “My opponent has called the Affordable Care Act an unmitigated disaster. He’s pledged to repeal that law root and branch without a meaningful discussion.”
Schneider, however, pledges to a bipartisan effort to create new laws to make healthcare more affordable and to fix what isn’t working, he said.
“I’m not willing to go backward on health care,” Schneider said. “Keep what works and extend a hand to Republicans to work in good faith to improve access to quality health care until everybody in this country can see a doctor and afford it.”
Health care should be an inalienable right in America, Schneider said, like the freedom to own a gun or that of free speech and assembly.
Jennifer Faul, the chief operating officer at Prairie St. John’s Psychiatric Hospital, has seen mental illness and substance abuse disorders and knows it doesn’t discriminate along party lines.
“Previous to the expansions I saw many cases in which people could not afford the medications,” Faul said. “One co-pay could be $500.”
People were forced to choose between paying for medications or for housing, and when faced with such a choice people usually choose a roof over their heads, which in time can balloon costs for the suffering person, for taxpayers, with issues extending into law enforcement, judicial proceedings, and serious hospitalization.
Offering affordable health care provides long-term maintenance, and is fiscally more responsible, Faul said.
“We need to maintain those gains, we need to protect the hundreds of thousands of North Dakotans if those provisions are repealed,” Schneider said. “I don’t even want to think about the cost of repeal because it will be too high for North Dakota.”
Schneider’s opponent, Kelly Armstrong, is an attorney who comes from an oil family and has ties to oil magnate Harold Hamm, the CEO of Continental Resources. One issue he places high on his bucket list is to increase penalties against First Amendment rights, according to a political advertisement released in May.
Wayne Stenehjem’s office declined to comment saying all questions should be directed to the Texas Attorney General’s office.
Attempts were made to contact Armstrong for comment.
As of May 2018, Armstrong has raised nearly $1 million, and has spent $533,903. Schneider has raised $224,081 and has spent $33,181, according to Open Secrets, Center for Responsive Politics.
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