The new health-care reform law plays into hiring decisions, and he wishes it were not so, Minot businessman Steve Bigelow told a couple of members of Congress who stopped by his company Friday.
Congressman Rick Berg, R-N.D., who is running for the U.S. Senate, brought Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., to Central Machining & Pump Repair and held a news conference to talk about failings of what is commonly called Obamacare.
"The Supreme Court may have said it's constitutional, but I tell you, it continues to be unworkable for patients and health-care providers," said Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon before going to Washington, D.C.
Jill Schramm/MDN • Congressman Rick Berg, right, talks with Steve Bigelow while touring Bigelow’s company, Central Machining & Pump Repair, Friday.
Barrasso said the country needs a Republican-controlled Senate to ensure overturning the health-care law, which he called "voluminous" and "incoherent" in its 2,700 pages.
Bigelow, co-owner of Central Machining & Pump Repair, said the law is so expansive that it is impossible for his business to understand all the details. The company, which employs more than 30 people, is cautious about hiring because of uncertainty over whether adding staff would trigger new mandates since rules vary with the size of a business. Mandates such as offering health coverage up to 18 months for laid-off employees is just one of the cost concerns, he said.
Berg said the law creates uncertainty over costs that hampers the decision-making of small businesses looking to grow. He and Barrasso also called the law a terrible deal for taxpayers.
"It continues to be for us, as a nation, unaffordable," Barrasso said. Rather than reduce health-care costs, he said, the law has raised health-care insurance costs and more people are at risk of losing their employer-related coverage.
Berg presented information showing the law will cut $716 billion from Medicare, which amounts to $995 million in North Dakota and $84.8 million in Ward County.
"This bill is bad for North Dakotans. It's bad for America, and we need to repeal it," Berg said.
The campaign of Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, who is running against Berg, called attention to the law's increased Medicare reimbursements for some North Dakota hospitals and criticized Berg's vote for the Ryan Budget, based on a Congressional Budget Office finding that costs would go up for seniors.
"Heidi believes we should keep the good things, like protecting against discrimination from pre-existing conditions, and fix the bad things, like the mandate," said Brandon Lorenz, spokesman for Heitkamp. "But Rep. Berg has voted to allow insurance companies to deny care again, and take away $650 million in Medicare funding for North Dakota hospitals without offering a plan on how to get any of those protections back. Rep. Berg's vision is to raise Medicare costs by $6,400 for North Dakotans and make them pay hundreds more out of pocket for drug costs."
Barrasso said the government approach doesn't work.
"We need a clear-thinking approach to what will work best for the people of North Dakota," Barrasso said. "We need to focus on patient-centered health care."
He said health-reform measures that work are those that allow people to buy insurance across state lines, eliminate medical lawsuit abuse, give incentives for staying healthy and provide the same tax breaks for privately-purchased insurance as for employer-sponsored insurance. But there should be no big government plan, he said.
"The responsibility of government is limited," he said.