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North Dakota House votes to protect coverage for pre-existing medical conditions

North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck. Forum News Service file photo

BISMARCK — North Dakota House lawmakers voted to protect insurance coverage for pre-existing medical conditions Monday, April 15, as the Affordable Care Act continues to face an uncertain future at the federal level.

The budget bill for the state Insurance Department includes a provision preventing health insurance policies from taking into account any pre-existing condition, "including waiting periods, refusal of coverage, and ratesetting." The amendment was offered by Rep. Rick Holman, D-Mayville.

House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, said they heard the protections were "a concern" during last year's elections, when Democrats hammered Republicans on health care. Republicans have long assailed the Obama-era health care law, but its pre-existing condition protections have proven popular.

Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread, a Republican, said the amendment language would affect every health insurance plan in North Dakota, including large employer plans. He said they'll work in conference committee, where lawmakers from both chambers iron out compromises before a bill's final passage, to more narrowly address individual plans.

Godfread said his office wasn't consulted about the amendment ahead of time.

"It's extremely broad," he said, adding that they'll develop "some language that actually accomplishes what I think the intention was."

Boschee said Democrats are willing to work on the proposal.

President Donald Trump's administration moved last month to support full dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, the Washington Post reported. Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, told fellow lawmakers on the House floor Monday that the amendment would signal that the Republican-controlled Legislature supports the federal law enough to put "significant components" of it into state statute.

"Even if that goes away federally, we're going to keep it here statewide," he said. "I think that is a pretty rotten part of this bill."

The budget bill passed the House in a 55-33 vote.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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