Heidi Heitkamp Says Uninsured Tax She Doesn’t Really Like Isn’t High Enough


Liberal Senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp sat down with her friends and allies at the Fargo Forum today and fed them what has to be one of the most convoluted, contradictory explanations for a policy position I’ve ever heard (you can watch video of her filibustering at the link).

First, Heitkamp made a claim he’s made before which is that she doesn’t really like the Obamacare insurance mandate (a concern she never expressed until she was on the ballot in an election year):

“I’ve never liked the mandate – in part because of where it came from,” Heitkamp said referring to the mandate’s origins as a proposal offered by a Republican think tank during the health care debate of the 1990s.

“It presupposes people don’t buy health insurance because they don’t want to,” Heitkamp said. “People don’t buy health insurance because they can’t afford it.”

But then, Heitkamp says that the mandate she doesn’t like isn’t high enough:

Heitkamp said the penalty for not having health insurance isn’t severe enough to incentivize people to get insurance, so it won’t work to meet the goal of reducing costs.

“It’s not going to add to the ranks of the people insured,” Heitkamp said. “You need to deal with making health care costs more affordable.”

First she doesn’t like the mandate, then it’s not high enough. Heitkamp is trying to have her cake and eat it too. But remember, Heitkamp has said that she wouldn’t vote to repeal Obamacare, but says the only reason she wants to keep the law is the so-called “Frontier Amendment” which adjusts rural state Medicare payments:

Heitkamp said Monday, “the single reason why I would not vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act is the Frontier Amendment.”

The provision – lobbied for by North Dakota’s delegation and other rural states – fixed a decades-long inequity in Medicare reimbursements to states that provided good-quality care at lower costs.

So because of a tiny footnote in this enormous, government take over of health care Heitkamp won’t vote to repeal the law. That’s a pretty thin excuse.

But maybe the biggest whopper Heitkamp told during the entire interview is this suggestion that the Obamacare exchanges, which would create government-controlled markets for health insurance, are somehow the opposite of a government take over of health care:

She said it was a “tragedy” that state lawmakers voted down a plan to implement North Dakota’s health care exchanges during a special session of the Legislature last fall.

“I believe it was voted down for no other reason than politics,” Heitkamp said. “It was a political decision, because those exchanges were ready to go, they were bipartisan (and) every group – including Blue Cross Blue Shield – supported the formation of state health exchanges, in part because they don’t want a federal health exchange.”

“If you want to avoid a federal takeover of health insurance, you ought to do the state exchanges as a minimum,” she added.

Keep in mind that even if the state implements the health care exchanges, the federal government retains veto power over them, meaning that the feds are still 100% in the driver’s seat on the exchanges. The only thing the states can hope to win is the obligation to pay for the exchanges.

But whether we’re talking about a state exchange, or a federal exchange, we’re still talking about a government-controlled market for health insurance where bureaucrats decide what sort of policies you can buy and at what prices.

Heitkamp mentions that Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota is for the health insurance exchanges, but does anyone really think that’s because that company which has over a 90% share of the state’s health insurance market is for the exchanges because they’ll create more competition? Or does BCBS just want to carve out their place in a government controlled market?

Obamacare is the wrong policy for the state. Heitkamp’s positions on Obamacare are the result of cold political calculation. She was an outspoken proponent for the law until she decided it wasn’t politically convenient to be a proponent any more.

Her inability to be honest about her position is, frankly, almost worse than her original support for the law.

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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