Heitkamp, Hoeven differ on healthcare proposal

North Dakota Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven expressed different perspectives on the healthcare reform discussion draft released Thursday.

“If the House bill was a train speeding towards a bridge-less ravine, the Senate bill may have slowed the train down but does nothing to stop the passengers from certain calamity ahead. After drafting a bill in secret to overhaul our country’s healthcare system, the best Senate Republicans could come up with is a bill that looks very similar to the cruel bill the U.S. House of Representatives passed. Both bills are downright bad for North Dakota,” said Heitkamp in a statement released Thursday afternoon. “Over the past several decades and in the last few months, I’ve spoken with far too many parents of children with disabilities, individuals with health challenges like cancer or diabetes, and North Dakotans including the elderly and single parents who struggle every day to get the affordable care they deserve. It’s because of them that I refuse to give any credence to bills that would purposely seek to take their health coverage away or make it unaffordable. That isn’t who we are as a country. And it isn’t who I am as a North Dakotan.

“Just like the House bill, the Senate bill would put at risk the more than 90,000 North Dakotans on Medicaid – individuals and children with disabilities, seniors, and low-income families – by ending Medicaid expansion and slashing traditional Medicaid – a proven, cost effective, life-saving program – even more than the House bill would. It would still disproportionately hurt rural communities and close rural hospitals and clinics across our state. It would still prevent many North Dakotans from affording treatment for opioid abuse. It would still allow insurance companies to give older, sicker individuals plans with minimal coverage, effectively forcing them to pay out of pocket for their healthcare which many can’t afford. And it would still do all of this damage while giving a tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.

“We need to improve our healthcare system. I’ve been saying this for years. In 2013, I put together a healthcare advisory board made up of healthcare leaders in North Dakota to have that discussion. Over the past three and a half years, I’ve offered many improvements to make the health reform law work better for families and businesses. We should work together and have this important conversation in a bipartisan way, out in the open for all to see and hear. Unfortunately, the opposite of that is what has come out of both the House and Senate. North Dakota deserves better.”

Hoeven indicated the discussion draft was worth examining.

“The overall goal of healthcare reform legislation should be to provide Americans with access to patient-centered healthcare and health insurance at an affordable rate,” Hoeven asserted in a statement. “We will review this legislation to determine whether it meets this standard and we also want to see a CBO score on the bill. We need to stabilize the health insurance market to make it more competitive so consumers have access to better and more affordable healthcare policies. At the same time, we need to ensure that low-income individuals have access to health insurance either through Medicaid or through tax credits based on age and income.”

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