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Rep. Bill Amerman, Published July 30 2012

Health care reform foes push misinformation, scare tactics

In a news article by Forum Communications’ Teri Finneman, it was reported that the North Dakota Policy Council, the Liberty N.D. PAC and the governor all still oppose a North Dakota-run health care exchange. They’re afraid if we have a state-run exchange, it will give legitimacy to the Federal Health Care Act.

Well, here’s a news flash for all you geniuses. The act doesn’t need a North Dakota exchange to be legitimate. You can hate the act, you can love it or be somewhere in between, but the fact is that when Congress passed the act in 2010 and the president signed it, it became the law of the land. It has been that way for two years, it is that way as I write this letter, and it will continue to be that way. Many parts of the plan have already been enacted, and more will be as it continues forward. Yes, it may get repealed somewhere down the road, and I’m sure you think it will. Of course, I’m sure you believed the Supreme Court would shoot it down. How did that work out for you?

I will say you are not alone in your thinking. The majority party in the North Dakota House with the urging of Congressman Rick Berg, R-N.D., killed a bill during the special session in November 2011 that would have set up a North Dakota-run health care exchange. Their thinking was the same as yours. Except for Berg, who also believed it would strengthen his Heidi Heitkamp and President Obama bashing campaign if we didn’t have an exchange.

Well, my hats off to all of you. So far all your misinformation and scare tactics have kept North Dakota from having its own exchange. So now, when time lines and dates are missed, the federal government that you all love to bash will come into the state and run the exchange using its guidelines instead of ours. Way to go. However, it gets even better.

If we would have passed the bill during the special session to have a North Dakota exchange, this is what we could have had: an exchange run by North Dakota for North Dakotans set up, policed and administrated through our own North Dakota insurance commissioner’s office; every licensed health insurance company would be listed in the exchange and website; not one penny of state money would have been used to set up the exchange; and there was provisions in the bill to pay for the running of the exchange over a two-year period.

We all know health insurance is not a favorite family discussion. It’s confusing, intimidating; hell, it’s downright scary. You have co-pays, deductibles and prescription plans. Who sells health insurance? Where are they? How do we find them? I believe you get the idea.

If we had a North Dakota exchange, it would be one-stop shopping for health insurance. Everyone – young families, seniors, businesses, could go to the exchange’s website and there would be the listing of all the insurance companies, their plans, contacts and everything else you need to know to find a health care plan to fit your budget and needs. The best thing is, even if the federal act is repealed, we could keep the exchange. Why not? It would be paid for, we have the means to pay for running it, it is run through the insurance commissioner’s office so it is safe, and all the insurances companies and their information would be listed. What a great tool for all North Dakotans to have and use.

However, we don’t have an exchange. That’s because certain groups with fancy names, the governor, the majority party in the state House, Berg and others have put party politics ahead of what is good for all North Dakota citizens.

Rep. Amerman, D-Forman, N.D., represents District 26 in the North Dakota House of Representatives.