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Published August 13 2010

Mathern: Panel’s health reform report is skewed

BISMARCK – Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, released a memo Thursday with “the real facts” about health care reform and North Dakota.

Mathern is responding to previous reports from Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, and members of the interim Industry, Business and Labor Committee saying health care reform will cost North Dakota $1.1 billion.

“From my perspective, it really wasn’t the full picture,” said Mathern, the public policy director at Prairie St. John’s in Fargo. “This is my attempt to correct that information.”

In his memo, Mathern said the committee concludes health reform will result in a big increase in health care premiums.

“The IBL study completely neglects to discuss the benefits of the new law to North Dakotans, providing a very misleading picture of its overall impact on the state,” Mathern said.

Based on the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s projection of the average subsidy amount in each of the years 2015-2019, 30,500 North Dakotans will receive more than $840 million in federal tax credits to make insurance more affordable, Mathern said.

North Dakota will also receive between $595 million and $706 million in increased federal Medicaid spending through 2019, he said.

The nonpartisan Medi­care Actuary projects health reform will reduce Part B premiums, Part B cost sharing and Part A cost sharing compared to the amounts that would have been paid in the absence of health reform, Mathern said. North Dakota has 108,000 Medicare-aged and disabled beneficiaries who will benefit from these reductions, he said.

Mathern said the IBL study appears to accept a Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota estimate that costs will increase more than 60 percent in the grandfathered individual health insurance market.

“These assumptions are far from the mainstream of estimates,” Mathern said in the memo. “Not only are they contradicted by estimates from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, they are far higher than the estimates of other major insurance companies.”