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Letter to the editor: Health care bills not good for North Dakota

There is nothing in the new health care bills that is good for North Dakota. Nothing.

Last week, the Senate revealed its Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) of 2017. The bill was in response to the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by the House. Neither bill is good for North Dakota citizens. Neither bill is good for North Dakota hospitals.

When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, in 2008 it was flawed. But because of ACA and Medicaid expansion, 20,000 more North Dakotans have access to health care coverage.

Both the new bills from the Senate and House would eliminate Medicaid expansion to those 20,000 people. This is a mistake.

Here’s why:

When patients have health insurance, their behaviors change. Patients with health insurance go to the doctor more regularly for preventative care. That means they take care of a health issue early, rather than waiting until they require treatment that is more intense and more expensive. Many times, people without insurance wait so long to receive care they end up in an emergency department. Once there, they can’t afford their medical bills. That means the hospital absorbs that expense. No hospital – or any business – can do that in perpetuity.

The ACA expanded coverage for people in North Dakota and around the country. The newly insured people could now address their health problems before they turned into a medical crisis. The ACA kept people healthy and saved dollars for both hospitals and taxpayers.

If enacted, repealing Medicaid expansion will result in a loss of more than $1.5 million a year at Jamestown Regional Medical Center alone. Losing that revenue impacts JRMC’s ability to provide the services this community wants and needs. It means that all who need health care are impacted, not just those on Medicaid, but those with Medicare and private insurance too.

And JRMC is not alone.

Repealing Medicaid expansion will destabilize hospitals in all corners of North Dakota.

Our current health care law, the ACA, is not perfect. It still needs to be fixed. However, the Senate has an opportunity to improve health care without eliminating Medicaid expansion. I hope our senators can provide leadership that focuses on repairs and improvements of the current law, rather than repealing and eliminating health coverage for many in North Dakota and across the country.

DeBoer is president and CEO of Jamestown Regional Medical Center.