I had Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread on my radio show yesterday to talk about the health care reform debate taking place in Washington D.C. and how it might impact North Dakota.
“I like some of the ideas in there,” he said of the bill passed by the House last week, but warned that any reform which passes will likely look very different from what eventually becomes law. “We’re at the end of the first period,” he said.
And because of the uncertainty of reform, Godfread says he wishes lawmakers had left themselves more time to deal with any potential implications for North Dakota.
“I wish they legislature had saved more than 3 days for these issues,” he said. Lawmakers adjourned on day 77 of their session. The state constitution limits them to meeting for no more than 80 days per biennium. They can call themselves back into session as long as they have days left (and they may yet this year to address some of Governor Doug Burgum’s recent vetoes) but beyond that Governor Doug Burgum would have to call a special session.
Any potential health insurance/health care reform coming out of Washington D.C. will have big implications for state-level policy.
One thing Godfread said he liked about the reform as it stands now are the waivers it would give the states. The reform would allow states to apply for waivers from the essential health benefits and community pricing, something critics say means letting insurance companies deny people with pre-existing conditions, but Godfread pointed out that the states seeking a waiver would need to (among other things) establish a high risk insurance pool.
North Dakota has actually had a high risk poll since the 1980’s. It’s called CHAND, and operated prior to Obamacare as safety net coverage for those turned down by insurance companies. Godfread said enrollments in CHAND have “dwindled” since Obamacare became law, but with some tweaks the program could satisfy the House bill’s requirements for a waiver.
Assuming something even like the House bill actually becomes law.
But Godfread says something has to be done, noting that many states are “facing a collapse of their market” under Obamacare. Iowa, as one example, may not have any companies offering coverage to individuals.
North Dakota has been “fortunate” to have largely avoided that sort of trouble so far, but Godfread told me it could be coming if something doesn’t change.
Here’s the audio: