Heidi Heitkamp on Health Care
Heitkamp said Republicans' so-called "premium support" proposal, which would provide a voucher for beneficiaries under age 55 to shop around for health coverage, would create "real problems in making sure that that system is solvent" if only the elderly who are the sickest remain on traditional Medicare. She said her solutions for keeping Medicare solvent include negotiating prescription drug prices, reducing fraud and waste and promoting wellness.
Berg championed the proposal as giving Americans an option to choose a better policy, but he focused most of his comments on the effects of the Affordable Care Act.
"It cuts money from hospitals and physicians in North Dakota. It cuts hospice. These are real cuts," Berg said.
Heitkamp called Berg's $716 billion-cut claim "the biggest fib in this whole campaign," noting Berg voted for such a cut under vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's budget plan.
Asked how they would address Obamacare, Berg said he would repeal the law, calling it "the one clear distinction in this race." He said his wife, a physician, said it would put the government between her and her patients, and he referred to recent reports that Olive Garden and Red Lobster are putting more workers on part-time status to see if it will limit costs from Obamacare. "This bill creates a cloud of uncertainty, and it's hurting our whole economy," Berg said.
Berg agreed that "we need to deal with that" frontier amendment, explaining afterward that he would reintroduce the provision in the Senate if elected. Heitkamp countered afterward that Conrad and former Sen. Byron Dorgan tried for 20 years to pass the amendment.
During last November's special session the House voted 64-30 against the exchange. Heitkamp went on to say that North Dakota should have a health care exchange, federal law or not.
Berg said the law needs to be repealed and replaced piecemeal. He said the law's mandate to purchase insurance will hurt businesses and families. "They hit middle America hard," Berg said. He pointed to the announcement earlier in the week that Olive Garden & Red Lobster will be moving away from hiring full-time employees to keep costs down under the law. The law states that businesses with 50 or more employees can be subject to fines if full-time workers aren't covered.
Heitkamp said changes are needed with the law when it comes to the mandate and the tax on health insurance. But that it should not be repealed. She says doing so would get rid of the frontier states amendment, which she says would be impossible to get back.
Heitkamp: "The vast majority of North Dakota's hospitals-- 36 of the 52 certified hospitals--are Critical Access Hospitals. The facilities are the lynchpin to North Dakota's health care system. The president has proposed cutting funding for Critical Access Hospitals and that's something I think he's wrong about.
Berg: "I'm extremely supportive of it. Rural health care is key. The challenge in Washington is that they assume every city has a million people in it. Also, I worry about the president's health care bill, which implements an appointed board of officials to make recommendations about reimbursement levels. With that, we would end up going down a trail of power being taken out of the hands of our elected officials."
Her campaign offered little response to the charges, except to say that "(health care reform has) come up when she's been around the state," adding that Heitkamp has been focused on discussing energy issues. On health care, Dunlap, Hinck and Dill each said they believe the 2010 federal health care reform law should be upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Pollard, however, said he believes the requirement that individual buy health insurance is unconstitutional. "It's an extremely large assumption of power by the federal government," he said.
But Heitkamp's remarks offer a stark contrast to her rousing support for health care reform two years ago. "Her critique of Pres. Obama's most controversial act reveals the delicate balancing act she'll attempt to perform--embracing the more popular pieces of reform, while carving out distance from its centerpiece," a Politico analyst writes. "The problem for Heitkamp is that the criticism appears to be new. There isn't evidence she raised concerns about the health care law until she was a candidate."
Christian Coalition publishes a number of special voter educational materials including the Christian Coalition Voter Guides, which provide voters with critical information about where candidates stand on important faith and family issues. The Christian Coalition Voters Guide summarizes candidate stances on the following topic: "Repealing "Obamacare" that forces citizens to buy insurance or pay a tax"
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