GRAND FORKS-A lawsuit aimed at Obamacare could deal a blow to protections for North Dakotans with Medicaid and pre-existing conditions, two former national leaders from the state said Monday.
"We have much more to lose if that lawsuit were successful," former U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., said July 16 of North Dakotans.
Pomeroy and Mary Wakefield, a former acting deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration, are promoting a report highlighting the impacts of the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, on rural North Dakotans. They also warned what would happen if a lawsuit meant to repeal the ACA succeeded.
After failed attempts by Congress to repeal the ACA in its entirety, North Dakota and 18 other states joined Texas' lawsuit against the U.S., claiming Obamacare is unconstitutional.
"We think it's wrong that North Dakota taxpayer dollars are being used in litigation that would take out all of the protections that exist under present law helping people get health insurance," Pomeroy said. "It's just wrong to strip coverage away from so many North Dakotans, as well as protections from other North Dakotans who might develop a health condition in the future."
Wakefield and Pomeroy are spearheading Dakotans for Health, a group representing residents of North Dakota and South Dakota that is focused on upholding the ACA, especially parts that they say help residents in rural America. They said they have heard concerns regarding the lawsuit from consumers and those in the medical industry.
The ACA prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage or raising prices for those with pre-existing conditions. The report presented by Dakotans for Health last week said 316,000 North Dakotans live with pre-existing conditions.
North Dakota also expanded Medicaid under the ACA, Pomeroy said, adding about 40,000 North Dakotans have health insurance because of the legislation passed under President Barack Obama's administration.
The formation of Dakotans for Health is in response to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recent statements declaring the Justice Department would not defend parts of the ACA, including clauses protecting patients with pre-existing conditions, Pomeroy said.
There is a lot of discussion about health care, and it is easy for talks about pre-existing conditions and Medicaid to get lost in the larger picture, Wakefield said.
"It's so important that North Dakotans know what's at play here, and then they can draw their own conclusions about what should and shouldn't happen," she said.
If there are parts of the ACA that need improvement, Congress shouldn't be just completely ripping it up and starting from scratch.
"Let's take what we got and work to make it better," he said.
Roughly three-quarters of Americans polled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, an independent health analysis organization, said prohibiting health insurance companies from denying coverage because of a person's medical history is very important.
"This isn't a political issue," Pomeroy said.