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Mark Schneider, Published January 13 2011

Republicans play political games with health care act

As their first act of legislating, Republicans are again playing political games at the expense of responsible governance. Republicans intend to take up legislation that would repeal the Affordable Care Act, the law enacted by President Barack Obama and Democrats that guarantees North Dakota families have access to the quality, affordable health care they need.

By making their top priority the repeal of the health care law, Republicans are showing their true colors. Rather than working to protect American families, create jobs or grow the economy, Republicans like Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., are standing up for insurance companies and revoking newly gained health care choices and consumer protections that hold insurance companies accountable for their unfair practices.

The Affordable Care Act enacted by Democrats last year gives North Dakotans at every stage of their lives greater individual freedom. Across the state, 149,000 uninsured North Dakotans will have better access to affordable insurance options.

Under the new health care law, small businesses will have more freedom to make the business decisions that allow them to succeed because new tax credits provide them with more options. In North Dakota, as many as three-quarters of all small businesses can retain skilled employees by offering health care benefits made more affordable to employers through tax credits provided by the Affordable Care Act.

Republican efforts to repeal the health care law would eliminate new options for parents and expecting mothers. The law prevents women from being denied health insurance because they are pregnant and requires coverage without deductibles of services that promote healthy pregnancies. It prohibits insurance companies from excluding coverage of pre-existing conditions for North Dakota’s children. And the Affordable Care Act allows thousands of young adults in North Dakota to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they are 26.

The health care law also helps free our children from the threat that the deficit poses to their future by holding government accountable for its spending. By opposing those reforms, Berg would add $1 trillion to the deficit.

Independent estimates show the law will reduce the deficit by $1 trillion by cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse, and stopping hundreds of billions in unfair and irresponsible subsidies to insurance companies that are now paid by taxpayers.

The Affordable Care Act that Berg wants to repeal holds insurance companies accountable. The law has already stopped them from denying kids coverage if they are born with a medical problem or disability. And as more of this law goes into effect, they won’t be able to use fine print or legal tricks to deny medical treatments that are covered under people’s policies.

Let us continue to hold insurance companies responsible for their actions by upholding the Affordable Care Act, which keeps them in check. And North Dakotans should hold accountable Berg and his actions and votes in Washington that take away freedoms from North Dakota families and award insurance companies the freedom to pursue profits and the revenues that fund CEO bonuses and lobbyist payrolls.

Schneider is chairman of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party.