Port: Sanford wants to protect health care choice … by limiting your choices?


MINOT, N.D. — It’s unfortunate how much time we’ve had to spend talking about the ephemera of the culture wars this legislative session — things such as book bans and drag show restrictions — and not more consequential debates. Like the growing efforts to price-pressure North Dakotans into limiting their own health care choices.

House Bill 1416 , introduced by Rep. Dwight Kiefert, a Republican, would prohibit the sale of health insurance policies that freeze out independent health care providers as long as the provider “is located within the geographic coverage area of the health benefit plan and is willing and fully qualified to meet the terms and conditions of participation, as established by the health insurer.”

It’s a sensible proposal necessitated by the move toward vertical integration in the health care industry, where companies are beginning to act both as your insurer and your health care provider. Sanford is the primary example of this in our region. The company has long operated hospitals and clinics, but not so long ago began operating a health insurance company too.

Now Sanford’s insurance wing is selling policies that cover only the care you receive from Sanford physicians. The company and its various flacks are defending this as providing more choice in the insurance market, and Sanford will indeed give you a discount on your policy if you choose to lock yourself into their system.

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