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ND secretary of state candidate drops out, raising questions about GOP's next steps

Cramer: Common-sense approach to health care

By Rep. Kevin Cramer

No issue touches all of us and our families more closely than health care. Access to professional medical services when and where we need them is a key factor in our quality of life. These services need to be available to all people regardless of financial position.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) — also known as "Obamacare" — has been a disaster that continues to put a heavy burden on the backs of North Dakota families. The additional taxes, mandates and burdensome regulations coming from this ill-conceived law have been anything but affordable. Obamacare took away the free-market approach and replaced it with unsustainable government mandates.

Obamacare has been a failure and we've seen the result in skyrocketing premiums and deductibles under the law. In fact, the average insurance premiums in North Dakota have increased 44 percent from 2013 to 2017. The North Dakota Insurance Department, in a recent news release, said Obamacare continues to destabilize the state's individual health insurance market and federal health care reform efforts continue to face significant challenges. In the face of these difficulties, the insurance department is studying various options available to the state.

Obamacare fails because instead of lowering costs, the law has increased health care prices. Patients have fewer provider choices because many health care providers have pulled out of the exchanges due to unsustainable costs.

It also mandated Americans to enroll in plans that didn't work for them, or face IRS penalties. These penalties included nearly $700 per adult and over $2,000 per family. The law also ripped money out of Medicare in an attempt to make Obamacare work. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Democrats designing the law had made over $700 billion in reductions to the Medicare program, including over $300 billion in direct and indirect reductions to the Medicare Advantage program.

I supported replacing this disastrous law with a health care plan known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which would have replaced Obamacare with a patient-centered system that would have provided the people of North Dakota more flexibility and more money for health care.

The bill explicitly states insurers cannot deny someone coverage if he or she has a pre-existing condition and even includes $138 billion to help states lower costs for patients. The claim from Democrats that North Dakotans with pre-existing conditions would be harmed by this legislation is simply not true and is an unfortunate fear-mongering tactic. Meanwhile, many families with preexisting conditions who have "coverage" under Obamacare can't even use their health care unless they reach a $10,000 deductible.

AHCA contains provisions to help those most vulnerable among us. It expands Medicaid coverage for low income families and those who need help. In addition, it requires more accountability to prevent fraud thereby directing precious dollars to those that really have demonstrated a need.

The AHCA also provides low- and middle-income folks with tax credits - between $2,000 and $14,000 - to purchase plans that work for them, and it increases the amount of tax-free dollars people may contribute to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Moreover, the AHCA provides substantial funding to Community Health Centers, which are vital to our rural patients.

AHCA passed the House but failed to win passage in the Senate by a single vote proving once again that one vote matters. I remain steadfast in my goal of developing affordable, common-sense health care insurance coverage for all Americans.

Kevin Cramer, a Republican, represents North Dakota in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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