BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread provided written recommendation to members of Congress last Friday regarding opportunities to reform the Affordable Care Act (ACA). His letter was sent to five U.S. Representatives, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-C.A.), as part of “A Better Way,” which is Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-W.I) plan to improve several aspects of the federal government, including health insurance rules and regulations.
“My biggest concern is ensuring, no matter how it is provided, that health care coverage is affordable, accessible and flexible,” Godfread said. “I am encouraging the federal government to keep an eye on the marketplace while developing a plan that provides states the ability to regulate and define their own markets; that Congress recognizes and respects the independence and inherent creativity within the states, and provide options for consumers to have access to affordable health care. Specifically, I would like to see the federal government step out of the way and allow states to be the engine of America we have always been. Our citizens, our families and our businesses across North Dakota and America are relying on Congress to get this right.”
In his letter, Godfread offered several specifics to support his perspective, including that North Dakota has lost carriers in both the group and individual markets due to ACA. In 2009, North Dakota had 13 carriers in the individual market and 10 in the small group market. In 2017, only 3 carriers are actively marketing products to consumers in these two markets.
To improve health care affordability, accessibility and flexibility, Godfread made the following reform recommendations:
- Allow states to redefine the benchmarks for Essential Health Benefits
- Allow states the flexibility to determine what plans work for their markets
- Allow states to set the timeline for submitting rates and forms
- Establish a system for verification of Special Enrollment Period qualifications in 2017
- Modify federal risk adjustment formula to address flaws in the methodology that creates competitive disadvantages
- Address the issues created by the 90-day grace periods
- Address the issue of consumers eligible for other government coverage while enrolling in Exchange plans
- Fund temporary, transitional programs, including cost-sharing reductions and reinsurance through 2018.
- Address the country’s health care delivery model, which drives the cost of health insurance
“Americans, especially those here in the Midwest, spoke loudly this past election, and the message that was sent was that Washington, D.C., does not know what is best for us. We must be responsible for our own future. I would encourage Congress to listen to their fellow Americans and put their trust back into the union. As a state, we are capable, we are able and by design we are more responsive than the federal government ever can be. This is a golden opportunity to return the authority for health insurance back to where it belongs - closer to the people - and allow the states to regain their rightful role as the incubators of democracy.
You won’t find a bigger supporter of a prompt and speedy reform of the ACA than the Insurance Commissioner of North Dakota, however, I also understand the reality Congress is facing. The ACA was not implemented overnight and all-out repeal overnight is simply not responsible or prudent,” Godfread said. “This is just the beginning of a long conversation and I look forward to speaking out for the benefit of North Dakotans as we all move forward. The last thing America needs is another hastily-passed health care law without proper and prudent input from stakeholders across the country.”
A similar letter was also sent to Senate Leadership.