Experts fear getting access to healthcare could be more difficult in North Dakota

Several things recently took place in North Dakota:

  • There are fewer options for people on the Affordable Care Act
  • Most of the counselors who helped people sign up in-person for the best insurance have lost their jobs.
  • It is likely that the price you pay at the doctor’s office will be going up.

So how does this impact us here at home?

The next time you visit a place like Sanford Health, it could cost more, according to the Executive Vice President of Sanford Health Plan, Kirk Zimmer.

“I think the number we’ve settled in on is 15% more.15% more expensive if CSRs are not paid,” said Zimmer.

Zimmer is talking about cost-sharing reduction—federal subsidies paid to states in order to help provide healthcare access to people are living on a low-income.

Yesterday, Medica announced that uncertainty over federal CSR payments is causing them to pull out of the marketplace, leaving only Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Sanford Health.

“It would force individuals to make that decision about can they afford coverage because the policies will be more expensive,” said Zimmer.  

And in North Dakota, many of the people who have been set to help you sign up for healthcare won’t be there.

The state’s Navigator Project used federal funds to have people on-hand across the state guide you through the process of getting onto the marketplace and insured. 

But federal funding has been reduced from 300 thousand dollars last year to 12 thousand dollars this year—96% cut.

Reducing the number of navigators down to less than a handful.>

With open enrollment just a few weeks away, the one navigator left in the state just works part time now, and says that he is worried.

He’s in Bismarck, by the way, and he says that there might be enough funding to add a second navigator—but no one is sure. At one time, there were 12 navigators across the state.

Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp voted against a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare earlier this year—but released this statement today, saying in part, “I’ve been working with a group of Republican and Democratic senators to try to reach an agreement on some immediate fixes to the healthcare system, including the issue of cost sharing reductions.”

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