North Dakota argues Affordable Care Act's validity

Photo courtesy: MGN

BISMARCK, N.D. - On Tuesday, The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard a case that could strike down the Affordable Care Act. The case being heard in Louisiana is an appeal to a lawsuit that was started in Texas when a federal district court judge ruled the ACA to be unconstitutional.

Since that ruling in December, arguments have continued over legality of the act.

North Dakota's Democratic party says if the Affordable Care Act is overturned, there would no longer be penalties.

"The penalty for those who don't carry health insurance, they just reduced that penalty to zero, which essentially means there is no longer a tax," said Kylie Oversen, Chairwomen of the Dem NPL.

House Dem-NPL legislators proposed an amendment to the insurance commissioner's budget this past session, in case the ACA would be found unconstitutional. It would require health insurance companies in North Dakota to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

"You could wind up with rate increases if this goes away, you could wind up in a situation where you can't afford insurance anymore, and all of a sudden you're going to the emergency room," said Rep. Rick Holman, D-Mayville.

Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread says language on the amendment was unworkable.

"I talked with Democratic leadership, Republican leadership, and I actually presented them with options on if they wanted to move forward with language that's workable. We gave them language that works, we also presented the study option as well," said Godfread.

Godfread says both parties agreed the study was a better option because lawmakers would have about 18 months during the interim to work on it.

"Sometimes we refer to a way to kill a bill is death by study," said Holman.

Democrats say if the lawsuit is successful, North Dakotans would lose the health insurance provided by the ACA, but Godfread says that isn't true. He says many residents get their insurance through the individual market, which is what the ACA was founded to do. He added half of those individuals don't get a subsidy and those are the one's getting harmed the most by the ACA.

The ruling in Texas is currently on hold as the appeal goes through the Court of Appeals In New Orleans. The Appeals court has not yet handed down a ruling.