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Published June 28, 2012, 06:36 PM

Dalrymple Disappointed by Health Care Court Ruling

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple expressed disappointment Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal health care overhaul, but he said the state had no choice but to work to comply with the ruling.

By: James MacPherson, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple expressed disappointment Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal health care overhaul, but he said the state had no choice but to work to comply with the ruling.

"I do think it's bothersome," the Republican governor said of the high court's decision on the Affordable Care Act. "People have to remember that just because the Supreme Court says the law is constitutional, it doesn't mean it's good policy. It's still not what the people in North Dakota want or the majority of the people in the country want."

Dalrymple said his staff is reviewing the ruling and said it's unclear how the state will proceed, including sections that call for online marketplaces for patients to shop for insurance policies and expanding Medicaid to cover people up to 133 percent of poverty level beginning in 2014.

"We have to keep hoping some new consensus can develop in Congress, and I have to keep hoping they can revise the law at the very least," he said.

North Dakota was among several states that challenged the law. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem also said he was displeased that the Supreme Court upheld most of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul that includes a requirement that nearly all people have health insurance.

Stenehjem, a Republican, said the issue now likely would come down to the November elections, to see who wins the presidency and control of Congress.

The Legislature last year rejected a state-run online health insurance marketplace, a cornerstone of the federal law. Majority Republicans at the time called the insurance exchange too complex and too expensive to put into place.

The insurance exchange would require the state to hire 48 state and contract employees, Dalrymple said. It would have cost $47 million to implement and cost the state about $5 million annually to administer, he said.

"We looked at that as no bargain," the governor said.

Some planning has been done for such an exchange, but Dalrymple said he didn't know how much support the idea would have.

"We could explore that or with a state-federal partnership, a sort of a middle ground," he said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, the state's dominant health insurer, said Thursday it would work with the Legislature to craft a marketplace for patients to shop for insurance policies.

President and CEO Paul von Ebers said without such legislation, more North Dakota health care decisions will be made by the federal government.

"North Dakotans should decide how to organize our local health care system, not someone in Washington," von Ebers said.

Community health centers in North Dakota are applauding the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold the federal health care reform law.

Community Health Care Association of the Dakotas spokeswoman Stacie Fredenburg said the high court's decision should allow the state's 15 health centers to continue to expand and be funded. Three other such centers in the planning stages also may now be built, she said. More than 32,000 patients sought care at the clinics in North Dakota last year and the need is growing, Fredenburg said.

"We're relieved," Fredenburg said. "Community health centers play a vital role. It's just a reassurance that what we do is valuable and that it works."

The U.S. Census Bureau found about 83,000 North Dakotans had no health insurance in 2010.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said the Supreme Court's decision upholding the federal health care reform law ends the debate about whether the law is constitutional, but he says it still can be improved.

Conrad Congress should add "common sense provisions" to further control costs and improve patient care.

Republican U.S. Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Rick Berg said they will fight to repeal the law. Hoeven called it a "tax on the American people," and Berg said it was a "massive government overreach."

Berg faces Democrat Heidi Heitkamp in the November race to replace Conrad, who is retiring. The election may play a key role on which party controls the Senate next year.

Heitkamp said the law isn't perfect and that she'll work "to keep the good pieces intact and fix the bad pieces."


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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