North Dakota faces challenges in changing health insurance system

North Dakota Health InsuranceNorth Dakota legislators have been working to make changes to the state’s health insurance system to make it more in line with imminent federal regulations. A legislative committee has been tasked with the job of drafting such changes and will be presenting them during a special session of the Legislature scheduled for November 7. Lawmakers are eager to make changes to the system, but a potential snag takes the form of a $83 million price tag, which may put an end to the committee’s plans before any work can be done.

The committee has been working since June of this year to formulate a legislative plan that would prepare the state for the new insurance regulations set up by the Affordable Care Act. Included in the plan is legislation to make a health insurance exchange possible. There are also provisions that will allocate state money toward upgrading the computer systems that will run the exchange. The plan also includes a number of legislations that would provide incentives to insurance companies to participate in the exchange and expand the accessibility of Medicare to consumers.

While the majority of the committee’s plan has been met with initial favor, one provision has been the subject of controversy. The provision authorizes $83 million to be spent through June 2013, but does not detail how that money can be used or where it will come from. Legislators assume that much of the money will come from federal grants, but without a spending plan, those grants may never be awarded.

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