ND House rejects new health benefit agency

2011-11-11T00:25:00Z 2012-02-16T16:02:17Z ND House rejects new health benefit agencyThe Associated Press The Associated Press
November 11, 2011 12:25 am  • 

Angered by a federal health care law that most of them despise, North Dakota House Republicans defeated legislation Thursday to give state officials authority over a health insurance marketing agency that the law requires states to establish.

They said endorsing state administration of the agency, which is called a health insurance exchange, would be tantamount to approving the federal health reform law itself.

"I certainly am not going to legitimize Obamacare with my vote," said Rep. Wes Belter, R-Fargo. "We, as a state of North Dakota, need to follow some of the other states who have said no ... It is the law, but the fight should not be over."

Supporters of the state law warned that if the state does not assume responsibility for running the exchange, the federal government would do so. They said Thursday's vote was the state's last realistic chance for running its own exchange, since deadlines are looming and the Legislature does not meet again until January 2013.

State administration would provide less expensive and more responsive service for North Dakota health insurance customers, said Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo.

Kasper has been one of the Legislature's most vocal critics of the federal health care law. He argued that it made no sense to use that opposition as a pretext for rejecting state administration of the exchange.

"If you have a complaint ... where are you going to go? Call up Washington, D.C., and ask for someone? That doesn't work very good," Kasper said.

After a debate that lasted almost two hours, representatives voted 64-30 late Thursday to reject the legislation. All but 10 of the House's 69 Republicans voted against the bill, while 20 of its 25 Democrats supported it.

The vote came as lawmakers prepared to end their weeklong special session on today.

Rep. Lee Kaldor, D-Mayville, said the legislation was "about asserting our rights and our privileges as North Dakotans."

"Whatever our feelings are about the politics of the health care affordability act, whether it was right or wrong, it passed ... It's the law of the land," Kaldor said. "Let's not let the politics of what's gone on in the last couple of years put us in a position where we confront ourselves with an untenable option."

The exchanges are intended to offer subsidized health insurance to people who don't have coverage, and small businesses that cannot afford to extend health benefits to their employees.

Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, said exchanges would offer Internet portals to help consumers evaluate a menu of insurance plans and discover whether they were eligible for public assistance in paying for coverage.

Providing a state-run exchange would allow for more variety in health insurance offerings, Keiser said. If North Dakota opts for federal administration of its health exchange, it is likely to be lumped into a multistate plan with less consumer choice, Keiser said.

"We're going to have a basic, core exchange, and that's it, and it's not going to be flexible," Keiser said.

Critics of the measure said other rural states have declined to undertake their own administration of health insurance exchanges because of worries about the expense and sheer complexity of the task. The projected $10 million cost of operating a North Dakota exchange every two years "is simply a guess," said Rep. Mark Dosch, R-Bismarck.

"We are being thrown into a race by the federal government and say, ‘Start running,' but unfortunately, they haven't quite figured out where the finish line is supposed to be," Dosch said.

Some Republicans, including Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, the House majority leader, said they believed the state could still opt for state administration of its exchange even if lawmakers declined to do so now.

Kasper and Keiser disagreed, saying deadlines would pass before the Legislature's next regular session, and that there would be restrictions on state administration if North Dakota lawmakers made a tardy decision that they wanted the option after all.

"If we don't do it now, we won't be able to do it later," Kasper said.

Opponents of the bill said they resented the pressure, which they said was caused by unrealistic deadlines in the federal health care law.

Rep. Keith Kempenich, R-Bowman, compared the situation to high-pressure sales tactics in a used car lot.

"If the federal government was really sincere on trying to reform health care, they wouldn't have put these artificial dates in," Kempenich said. "Whenever I've seen things that get rushed like this, or they get where you're pressured like this, usually, they're full of it, and that's what this is starting to look like."

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(17) Comments

  1. Allseeingeye
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    Allseeingeye - November 13, 2011 5:57 pm
    Lord Kadizzle said: "These sorrowful disciples of Rush Limbaugh could care less about people needing health insurance. All they want is to be racist obstructionist. What a sad bunch of old right wing goats. "
    Umm, I personally take offense to the use of the term "old right wing goats" these are no cud chewers.

  2. Allseeingeye
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    Allseeingeye - November 13, 2011 5:52 pm
    If there is one repulican or republican supporter in this state that read this bill I would be amazed. Everything youre saying makes sense....to idiots! The bill itself is sufficient to take care of the entire populations health care needs wether youre elderly or a fetus, wether you have an existing illness of its something that might happen. What the republicans have tried to do is put a car body on a pedal bike and tell you its a car. If you read the health care bill aka The Patient Protection and Affordable Care
    Act, you will see the democrats have done a pretty thorough job in protecting the people that need affordable health care. Halatbis???? Just because Rush Limbaugh says something doesnt make it true but if rush says it you can bet its truly twisted. He has health care he has more money than he knows what to do with and hes not giving it to you. Its not unconstitutional to require an insurance company to cover you with the coverage they put on paper. The health care bill requires that any coverage you choose should cover all your needs including those who are included on your plan and only penalizes insurance companies that give less than what the bill says they must. Oh but just look at how many Republicans have insurance company lobbyists' little grubby fingers in their pockets. Go Ahead Republicans! Big cheer for you!!! 2012 is the year you start to feel like the Back Rhino that is now extinct as of a few days ago.
  3. BaaaaBaaa
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    BaaaaBaaa - November 11, 2011 7:42 pm
    Good Job North Dakota. Not that I am against a collaborative health approach that works for the states, the idea of a forced mandate slammed down the state's throats by the Feds is not something to endorse. Health care management is a huge issue, a huge expense, a paperwork and phone call nightmare, and just plain a drain.
    Let's support our State's and some individual form of using reason to treat the boos and coughs. Especially in rural areas. We don't need exchanges, we need the low cost drop in clinics and labs.
  4. itmatters
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    itmatters - November 11, 2011 12:32 pm
    Another prime opportunity that will be lost because of the partisonship and lack of interest of the ND Legislature. Did you request testimony from anyone who actually understands a Health Insurance Exchange?? There are good resources available within the state, but I doubt they were tapped. However, the State does a woeful job of administering the ND Medicaid program so they probably would have botched this. Delbert - there is also the option of forming a Regional Health Insurance group, which would be a great opportunity for North Dakota, South Dakota, and possibly other bordering states to develop a very good program. Many employers may drop their health insurance coverage so their employees can participate in a plan that will save both of them $$. However, North Dakotans will have to go with the Federal option if ND does not set up their own, or a Regional group. We know the problems Federally funded programs (red tape)...again a lost opportunity to serve the citizens of this state.
  5. Nickal1
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    Nickal1 - November 11, 2011 10:15 am
    What most Republicans in this hyper-conervate ND Legislature want is nullification. Well, that's unconstitutional. Obamacare is the law of the land. A conservative appeals court in DC just affirmed Congress' right to mandate the purchase of healthcare to be Constitutional. The Supremes will get this case and finally settle the issue sometime next spring. If they affirm the law's constitutionality, then ND will be found to have passed on their right to administer the ND exhange and the Republicans will b**ch about the Federal governmnet calling all the shots. Duh!
  6. Maya
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    Maya - November 11, 2011 8:49 am
    Cut your nose off to spite your face. Smart. Can we please start electing legislators who are capable of setting aside their juvenile emotional reactions and use their intellect?
  7. Don Quixote
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    Don Quixote - November 11, 2011 8:31 am
    This is much ado about nothing. ND has the option under the Health Care law to establish a state health exchange. They opted not to pursue the option. Now the Feds will establish the exchange. That suits me just fine.
  8. BLanger
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    BLanger - November 11, 2011 8:24 am
    Ah, the ND Republicans know so much. 95% of their negativity on this issue comes from the Republican political propaganda machine. as far as setting up the program as directed by federal law, it could be done without spending all the money.
    You could set it up, put someone in charge, and be prepared to control your own agency, by hiring only a couple of people to start. But, the Republicans know better. And, then again, the don't.
  9. DustOff3
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    DustOff3 - November 11, 2011 8:22 am
    Have the "rules" at the Federal level even been written yet? Where can I go for my "Benefits Book" that explains options?
  10. Kimberly
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    Kimberly - November 11, 2011 8:21 am
    More evidence that the House is full of a bunch of egotiscal, ignorant fools. The ACA is NOT going away, get it through your heads! The time for political grandstanding is over.
  11. Lord Kadizzle
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    Lord Kadizzle - November 11, 2011 8:05 am
    It is working great Delbert. Because Blue Cross has a monopoly, and chiropractors have bribed our legislature. I am forced to buy chiropractic coverage from Blue Cross. Yup, your Republican system is working great for the Chiropractors. If I had a choice I would buy a policy that does not have witch doctor coverage, but your current system is just great that makes me pay forty dollars per month to witch doctors.
  12. delbertmoore
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    delbertmoore - November 11, 2011 7:47 am
    I do not believe that in a state with fewer than 700,000 people and a good insurance regulatory agency; the Health Exchange idea will increase availability of insurance, knowledge about insurance, or reduce cost. The exchange will be a waste of money. It is flat wrong for the Federal govt. to tell states that if they do not institute a new agency, and pay for it, that the Federal govt. will do it against the state's wishes regardless of the opinion of the state. I would have voted "no". Delbert Moore
  13. Lord Kadizzle
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    Lord Kadizzle - November 11, 2011 5:01 am
    These sorrowful disciples of Rush Limbaugh could care less about people needing health insurance. All they want is to be racist obstructionist. What a sad bunch of old right wing goats.
  14. SomeGuyFromND
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    SomeGuyFromND - November 11, 2011 12:35 am
    you people are misinformed about the healthcare law going in front of the supreme court.

    If the supreme court rules against the Obama administration the Affordable Care Act isn't unconstitutional the question in front of the court will be if the individual mandate is constitutional. So if its rejected the Act still stands but the mandate goes away.

    But once again this vote proves this vote shows that sending a message is more important than actual policy.
  15. Daviol
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    Daviol - November 10, 2011 10:12 pm
    Halatbis: It is possible that the US Supreme Court will find the healthcare law unconstitutional. The provision requiring people to buy health insurance is the section on which most opponents of the law pin their hopes. There is at least a chance, however, that the same constitutional provision under which every American taxpayer can be required to buy health insurance for supreme court justices can support requiring Americans to buy health insurance for themselves.

    If the supreme court rules the healthcare act is unconstitutional, the Ohio amendment will be ineffective. If the supreme court rules the healthcare act is constitutional, the Ohio amendment will be just as ineffective.

    The eventual supreme court decision will be very important and very interesting. Unfortunately, the supreme court may decide not to rule on the merits for quite some time, yet.
  16. Halatbis
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    Halatbis - November 10, 2011 9:51 pm
    Another view: it could be that the State of ND is not going to put money into creating another agency---especially when looking into the future possibility that the U.S. Court finds that the OBamacare mandates are unconstitutional.

    The State of Ohio voters just passed a vote to set up a State constitutional amendment to prevent a federal mandate.
    Obamacare is not popular!
  17. Daviol
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    Daviol - November 10, 2011 7:10 pm
    This has very little to do with not knowing the costs involved. It has a lot more to do with not wanting to participate in providing health insurance to anyone who does not already have it, and with being able to complain more when the feds do something they don't like.
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