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Teri Finneman, Published August 04 2010

Health care reform costs for ND over inflated, Conrad spokesman says

BISMARCK – A spokesman for Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said the federal government, not the states, will pay nearly the entire bill for federal health care reform.

Chris Gaddie sent out an e-mail Wednesday, responding to a story where Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, said the new health care law will increase costs for North Dakota families by about $1.1 billion over the next 10 years.

“The federal government will be picking up practically the entire tab,” Gaddie said. “The reader is then left with the impression that the state, and by extension North Dakota taxpayers, will be footing the bill. That’s simply not true.”

Under the most conservative estimate, the state will be assuming a $32 million cost increase, he said. The total increase in spending between 2014 and 2019 is estimated to be $627 million, with $32 million for the state and $595 million for the federal government, Gaddie said.

“It’s also important to note that an additional 28,800-plus North Dakotans will be enrolled under that scenario, meaning thousands more of our friends and neighbors will have badly needed health insurance,” he said.

Under a more aggressive scenario that would include greater outreach to the state’s uninsured, the numbers change slightly, Gaddie said. Estimates indicate more than 40,000 North Dakotans would be covered at a cost of $57 million to the state, he said. The federal share under this scenario drops slightly to 92.5 percent of the total $766 million cost, he said.

“Under either scenario, however, the federal government is picking up the lion’s share of the cost of expanding Medicaid, while tens of thousands of North Dakotans will benefit,” Gaddie said.

Keiser was not immediately available for comment. For more on this story, read tomorrow’s Forum.