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Tom Fiebiger, Published December 05 2013

Letter: Republicans’ ACA sham both sad and humorous

Republicans in Congress can vote to shut down the government, costing the country an estimated $24 billion and raising havoc for innocent federal workers just trying to do their jobs – and pay their bills. All this done in the name of repealing the Affordable Care Act? This is ironic, considering that the original idea for the individual insurance mandate found in the Affordable Care Act actually came from Republicans in Congress as alternatives to President Bill Clinton’s plan in the early 1990s.

Let’s not forget Congress voting more than 40 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, despite the Supreme Court upholding its constitutionality, and it bringing insurance to

47 million Americans without insurance. It also permits millions of America’s children to not be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Our 25-year-old son can remain on our insurance until he’s 26.

When the ACA had an admittedly rocky rollout in October, rather than try to fix it, and actually help the millions of our fellow Americans who will benefit from it, Republican members of Congress pounced on the problems with the website for political gain. I found it both sad and humorous how fast Republican members of Congress, who just a few short weeks before had shut down our government – in a failed and politically inane attempt to get rid of the ACA – were now apparently the self-proclaimed advocates for those same uninsured Americans denied access to the website and unable to sign up for – the Affordable Care Act. Republican members of Congress were quick to convene hearings to get to the bottom of ... well, who was to blame for the rocky rollout.

Our own congressman recently sent me an email, complete with pictures of him on the floor of Congress with charts touting the thousands of cancellation letters sent to North Dakotans and how only 30 people in North Dakota had signed up online for the act. But does that show leadership or help any people of the state who will benefit from the act? It does not. It is symptomatic of the smallness that has become our country’s politics.

I urge our congressman to think and act bigger than the tea party. Our country’s future depends on it. So cross party lines, get your party leaders pissed off at you, and help fix our country’s problems.

North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm was quoted in The Forum as stating that the problems the federal government was having with the rollout of the ACA and the website confirm that North Dakota made the right choice in not setting up its own state exchange. Wrong. The fact that residents of our state have had such trouble getting signed up for insurance coverage on the federal website is evidence of the exact opposite – that North Dakota could have helped its residents by having taken on setting up an exchange when it had the chance. But most of our Republican leaders (with the exception of leaders like Rep. George Kiser) were convinced that President Barack Obama would be defeated, or the Supreme Court would find the act unconstitutional, so they chose to do nothing.

This is the same group that will tell you that we can do things better in North Dakota than the federal government can. Well, here they are, having passed on the opportunity to do just that, resorting to throwing stones and wringing their hands. We can do better.

Fiebiger, a former Democratic state legislator, is a Fargo attorney.