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Letter to the editor: It’s time to sign up for health insurance

A few years ago at holiday time I ran into a longtime friend. He had lost a lot of weight, and I thought he looked good. Sadly, looks were deceiving. He told me of his esophageal cancer and great difficulty eating. He was dead before the holidays rolled around again. His wife told me my friend had been living with increasing discomfort until he landed a job with health insurance and could afford to see a doctor. By then it was too late.

That is why it is so important for families without coverage to sign up for affordable health insurance during this open enrollment period, which ends Friday, Dec. 15, a little more than 2 weeks from now.

Back when I was North Dakota’s insurance commissioner, families could be prevented from getting coverage if insurance companies didn’t want their health risks or if premiums were beyond their ability to buy the coverage. Thankfully, laws have been passed to change this. During open enrollment, families or individuals cannot be rejected for health conditions of any kind, and premiums are based on income in order to be affordable to those on tight budgets. In fact, costs for many fall in the $50- to $100-per-month range, and so far this 2017 open enrollment period, around 20 percent of those applying have been eligible for coverage below $25 per month.

I’m not suggesting things are suddenly perfect with health insurance. For those who do not get coverage at work and do not qualify for subsidized policies, premium cost is unacceptably punishing. Congress needs to address these tough problems — without eliminating the parts of federal law which have made it possible for millions to finally get coverage — including nearly 40,000 in North Dakota (counting Medicaid expansion).

Between now and Christmas, we will be blasted with sales ads for almost everything, but no sales will be more important than health insurance and the access to the care it provides to families who need and deserve it. To access coverage during this open enrollment period, visit It is easy. I managed to check it out from my cellphone, and I am a total dinosaur in this computer age. If anyone reading this knows a family without coverage, please tell them of this opportunity. Open enrollment will be closed by Friday, Dec. 15, and then for many, no similar chance for coverage will exist for another year.