Insurance Commissioner: Obamacare Continues to “Destabilize” North Dakota’s Insurance Markets

Jon Godfread during his 2016 campaign Insurance Commissioner.

North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread announced today that his office would be doing some research into reforms for the state’s insurance markets.

“As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to destabilize North Dakota’s individual health insurance market and federal health care reform efforts continue to face significant challenges, the Department is studying various state options available,” the press release (read below) states.

Godfread says a state-led effort is necessary because Congress can’t seem to get anything done. Remember that Republicans in the House passed some reforms, which Godfread generally supported, but they died in the Senate. Just recently the North Dakota Democratic Party staged protests outside of Congressman Kevin Cramer’s in-state offices criticizing him for voting to change the status quo.

“Meaningful health care reform has stalled in Congress. Unfortunately, the fact remains that consumers in North Dakota who seek to purchase their own health insurance are facing increased costs and fewer options. It is now up to the states to be innovative and attempt to find relief for consumers within the rigid structure of the ACA,” Godfread is quoted as saying in the release. “Many of our farmers, ranchers and small business owners simply can no longer afford to purchase health insurance. These are the people who help drive our economy and are now forced to make the decision to forgo health insurance because it is too costly.”

He’s right. The situation Obamacare has created in our insurance markets is untenable. Some reform is needed, because right now people are getting hurt.

So what is Godfread hoping to accomplish? That’s not clear yet, but Obamacare does have a provision allowing states to pursue this sort of effort. From the press release:

Section 1332 of the ACA permits a state to apply for a State Innovation Waiver to pursue strategies for providing its residents with access to high quality, affordable health insurance while retaining the basic protections of the ACA. State Innovation waivers allow states to implement new ways to provide access to quality health care that is at least as comprehensive and affordable as would be provided absent the waiver, provides coverage to a comparable number of residents of the state as would be provided coverage absent a waiver, and does not increase the federal deficit.

That sounds hopeful, and with the Trump administration in charge for the time being, now would probably be a good time for a conservative-minded state like North Dakota to push to get a waiver approved. Congress isn’t going to act on this any time soon, and a future Democratic administration would undoubtedly be more hostile than Trump is to states deviating from Obamacare’s strictures.

Some of the ideas floated in the press release have do with reforming CHAND (the Comprehensive Health Association of North Dakota) which is a high-risk insurance pool our state had created long before Obamacare was ever law. Godfread wants to explore expanding CHAND.

I admire Godfread’s approach to this. Most politicians are busy using Obamacare as a stick to beat one another with. Godfread, it seems, is interested in policy solutions to the very real problems created by that legislation.

Let’s hope his efforts bear fruit.

Here’s the full press release:

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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