Published August 05 2010
Forum editorial: Health law spin is dizzyingOne needs to look no further than Bismarck to see the political spin that attends the new federal health care reform law. The rhetoric spun out of an interim legislative committee this week was little more than selective political boilerplate from both sides of the reform debate.
Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, focused on what he suggested will be an enormous burden on North Dakotans. He said the law will cost more than $74,000 per head to cover the 15,000 North Dakotans who are now uninsured for pre-existing conditions and lifetime benefit caps.
“Somebody is going to pay,” Keiser said, whether through higher insurance premiums or taxes.
On the other side of the health reform political divide, Sen. Tracy Potter, D-Bismarck, who serves on the same committee, insisted North Dakota “benefits extremely well” in the new law. Potter, who is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, cited the Frontier State Amendment whereby North Dakota hospitals and doctors benefit to the tune of $650 million over 10 years because of higher Medicare reimbursements.
Potter also noted that North Dakotans of modest means benefit from subsidies because North Dakota is a low-wage state.
No word if Keiser’s millions of dollars in costs are offset somewhat by Potter’s millions of dollars in benefits. No word regarding whether the politicians’ selective reading of the potential impacts of the law comport with other studies (the North Dakota Hospital Association and others) that appear to come to different conclusions.
Confused? No sin in that. Partisan manipulation of reform provisions is not helping. The genuine uncertainty about the economic and social effects of the law feeds confusion. Keiser’s Republican spin is no better that Potter’s Democratic spin. Politics taint the analyses. The muddled messages coming out of Washington make a murky situation almost impenetrable.
The best advice: Don’t take any of it as gospel. It’s a work in progress – and until the work is more complete, North Dakotans can’t know how much good, or how much damage, it will do to them.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.