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Merne Manor, Fargo, Published January 26 2013

Letter: ND can lend hand to the uninsured

Who are the 16 percent of all North Dakotans without health care?

Kimberly and Jason – children of a disabled Iraq war veteran whose compensation is just high enough to disqualify them from Healthy Steps, North Dakota’s child health insurance program, but not enough to pay for private insurance. When they get sick, which is often because they have not had regular checkups, their parents have to wait until they are so bad that they can go to the emergency room. As a result, they are falling behind in school. Without flu shots, they are potential sources of infection for their schoolmates and senior citizens. They are at high risk for dropping out of school, significantly decreasing their ability to contribute to the state’s workforce. Kimberly has already developed crippling asthma because she did not get adequate medical care as a baby.

Solution: Raise the income limits for Healthy Steps so that every one of North Dakota’s children will have health care. If, as everyone claimed after Sandy Hook, our children are our most precious gift, why are not all North Dakota’s children covered by health insurance?

Jane – Working full time as a big-box store greeter but cannot buy health insurance, pay rent and buy food. She is afraid that by not seeing a doctor she is not fixing the little things that could lead to a chronic disease that would keep her from working until she qualifies for Medicare 10 years from now

Solution: Extend Medicaid to cover the 32,000 individuals who make too little to afford health insurance but just enough to be above existing Medicaid limits. The beautiful part of this idea is that the federal government will pick up the tab for three years and 90 percent of it thereafter.

With a $1.6 billion surplus, North Dakota has the power to protect the health of its poorer residents and greatly improve our state’s future. What it needs now is a Legislature that is willing to make things happen for the uninsured.