A Republican senate candidate said he would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but encourage states to maintain its most important — and popular — provisions.
Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND), who is running for a seat being vacated by outgoing Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), tried to have it both ways in a debate with challenger Heide Heitkamp on Monday, arguing that the whole health law should be eliminated and that new legislation protecting consumers be put in its place. He bragged that his replacement bills would run only 10 pages:
BERG: I agree with the Frontier Amendment [increasing Medicare reimbursements to rural states], we need to deal with that. Pre-existing conditions, I think that should be done at the state level. The doughnut hole and covering kids till they’re 26. But you know what, Obamacare is 2,700 pages long. You know what those 5 things are? They are 10 pages long.
States have struggled to increase access to insurance and lower costs and are often unable to eliminate insurer discrimination against people with pre-existing condition without an accompanying individual mandate. And while Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts, which enjoyed high insurance rates before reform, successfully implemented a universal coverage plan, its changes were largely financed by the federal government and included a robust coverage requirement that Republicans now see as an infringement on personal liberty.
Ultimately, uninsurance rates vary and states with the most number of uninsured also have the least resources and smallest tax base from which to fund coverage expansions or provide subsidies to their populations. Balanced budget requirements also prevent many states from making meaningful long-term investments in reform and powerful health care industry lobbyists often stand in the way of reforms that could reduce industry profits.
But Berg seems more interested in keeping health legislation short than ensuring that it helps people find affordable coverage.