Congressman Kevin Cramer

Representing North Dakota, At Large

North Dakota Health Care Leaders Tell Cramer and Burgess: ‘Lift Regulations and Let Us Innovate’

Feb 22, 2017
Press Release

BISMARCK, N.D.  – North Dakota health care leaders delivered a unified message to one of the chief House architects of health care reform in Congress – “Lift regulations and let us innovate.”

Congressman Kevin Cramer hosted Congressman Mike Burgess, M.D. (R-Texas), chair of the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, for a Health Care Reform Roundtable in Bismarck today.  They were joined by Senator John Hoeven and Governor Doug Burgum, who listened to state officials and legislators, health insurance providers, medical and hospital association leaders, patient advocates, and administrators from hospitals and long term care centers across North Dakota.

Cramer and Burgess said they expect committee action in the next few weeks on the first Obamacare repeal and replace legislation.  The Energy and Commerce Committee, which Cramer is a member, has jurisdiction for the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Health Resources and Services Administration and Indian Health Service.

In replacing Obamacare, Cramer said Congress is addressing a health care law now in its death spiral.  “This law is no longer sustainable and will fail on its own if we don’t take action.  It is time to focus on solutions as we begin fixing something that is really broken.  Today’s message is we need regulatory relief, more state flexibility, and more patient choices. One thought we heard over and over today was ‘let innovation happen.’  We are fortunate in North Dakota to have a governor who knows how to innovate,” Cramer said.  

“There is great energy and enthusiasm in the House to develop a patient-centered alternative to the current Obamacare law,” Burgess said.  “Agency heads can provide immediate relief by lifting regulations.  In Congress, our first step will be a reconciliation bill that will repeal significant portions of Obamacare, implement a period of stability for patients, and include some replacement provisionsCongress will then consider separate legislation to strengthen insurance markets and address other related concerns.”

Cramer, Burgess and Hoeven stressed new legislation will continue to cover pre-existing conditions and keep children on their parents’ policies to age 26.  They also support expanding health savings accounts to further incentivize the creation of a consumer-driven health system.

State Medicaid administrators hoped for more flexibility to design the best program to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable.  “Lifting unreasonable Medicaid regulations would free up resources to develop a more effective program,” said Maggie Anderson, director of Medicaid Services for North Dakota.  Others said the Medicaid’s preventative health and addiction coverage helps control costs and encourages greater stability for recipients to maintain their health and support their families. 

Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread said before Obamacare, “health insurance in North Dakota was not broken. Insurance markets hate unpredictability and uncertainty and that’s what we have had for the past six years.  I hope new legislation will give power back to the states and let us create plans that work for our people.  As a small state, we can be nimble and reinvent programs that could lead the nation.”

“More than anything, we need regulatory relief,” said Shelly Peterson, president of the North Dakota Long Term Care Association.  “There are $800 million in Obamacare regulations not yet implemented. With fewer regulations we could offer much more for less.”

With roundtable discussions such as today’s gathering of North Dakota healthcare leaders, Hoeven said Congress is doing what was not done when Obamacare was passed. “We are giving everyone a voice and a chance to have a say in the process to design the best possible product we can.”

Burgum said unlike Obamacare, new health care legislation must be actuarially sound.  “It must encourage provider productivity, reduce regulations, and allow flexibility to move dollars upstream.  In North Dakota we are trying to reduce the size of government by 25 percent.  With 19 percent of our state budget being spent on Medicaid, we have a challenge before us to develop a program that lowers underlying costs.” 

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is one of two primary House committees with the jurisdiction to develop legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.  As the most senior medical doctor in Congress, Burgess is a strong advocate for legislation aimed at reducing health care costs, improving choices, reforming liability laws to put the needs of patients first, and ensuring there are enough doctors in the public and private sector to care for America’s patients and veterans.  Born in Rochester, Minn., Burgess has represented the 26th District of Texas, located north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, since 2003.

Listen to audio here.

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