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Rep. Gail Mooney, Published September 30 2013

Letter: North Dakotans have good options in ACA framework

I have to admit – I am excited. After months of discussion, debate, controversy and political fodder ... after much ado, we find ourselves at the Oct. 1 launch of the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare, as it’s affectionately become known. While there is little doubt the ACA will evolve, and controversy and challenges are expected to continue, what’s exciting is the actual movement from philosophy to implementation, and for North Dakota, this takes shape in two separate programs – Medicaid expansion and the Marketplace.

Medicaid expansion was approved by the 2013 legislative assembly as a means to provide medical assistance to low-income individuals between the ages of 18 and 64 who do not have minor children in their household. Currently – and without this expansion – an adult without minor children cannot receive medical assistance if they were to find themselves in need. Through the expansion of Medicaid to include childless adults, we’ll now have a safety net in place for all eligible North Dakotans. It’s expected that as many as 20,000 to 30,000 low-income North Dakotans will be affected by these changes as it opens to cover income levels up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. In rough terms, that’s $15,282 for a family of one, $31,322 for a family of four.

All North Dakotans, regardless of income category, will now also be able to explore health insurance options through a new system called simply “Marketplace.” The basis of the Marketplace is to “level” the playing field among insurance carriers, and to ensure that an essential, minimum amount of coverage is made available to all, regardless of the plan selected. Privately purchased insurance options will be categorized by bronze, silver, gold and platinum and will offer a range of coverage – from 60 percent to 90 percent, respectively. A cost-share program, based on income and family size, is available to help ease the financial burden for individuals and families where the employer doesn’t offer affordable or adequate coverage.

Today, questions abound – and individuals and businesses are finding themselves in need of direction and information. Community forums and informational meetings have begun to take place and a variety of online resources are available:

• healthcare.gov

• hhs.gov/opa/affordable-care-act

• kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator

• nd.bridgetobenefits.org/start_screening.html

• apps.nd.gov/dhs/ea/oasys/public/main.htm

• https://localhelp.healthcare.gov

• bcbsnd.com/healthreform

As we move to implementation, there are questions, concerns and frustrations. It’s a relief to know we’re not alone in this – and that navigational partners will be there along the way.

Rep. Mooney, D-Cummings, N.D., represents District 20 in the N.D. House.