Healthcare: Meetings and rally

Jul 7, 2017

People attending health care rally in Bismarck.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A day for health care discussions in Bismarck.

It ended with a rally in Bismarck's Custer Park. It was organized by the AFL-CIO and Indivisible Bismarck.

Those attending waived signs and chanted. The group wants the GOP healthcare bills scrapped.

"They are presenting America with an immoral choice," Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) told the rally. "They are bills that are telling us that we need the biggest tax break in the history of forever for the richest Americans, so we can take 22 million Americans off of health care."

A small group of counter-protestors were there – holding “Trump” signs, as well as one that read “M A G A” – for “Make America Great Again.”

US Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) speaks to a healthcare rally in Bismarck.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Earlier in the day, Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) met with representatives of AARP and the Long Term Care Association. Hoeven recently said he could not support the GOP Healthcare bill without major changes to it.

"This bill is a really bad bill for older North Dakotans," said AARP State Director Josh Askvig in an interview.

Askvig said the bill puts an “age tax” on those over the age of 50, by allowing insurance companies to charge older Americans more for simply being older.

"We don't think that's right," Askvig said. "It will be a double whammy, when they see their premium assistance lessened at the exact same time."

Askvig says the proposed cuts to Medicaid are also a real problem.

"It places folks who need long term care at risk," Askvig said.

"We just went through a state allotment," said North Dakota Long Term Care Association president Shelly Peterson. "It began in Jaunary, and ended June first. And that 5 months of a 5 percent cut was tremendous."

Peterson said it will take facilities the rest of the year to recover from taht.

"I can't imagine what would happen with a 22 percent reduction," Peterson said. "I just can't."

Peterson said for assisted living facilities and nursing homes, the vast majority of expenses are for staff.

"We need staff to care for people," Peterson said. "If you have less staff, you can;t do as good a job. And we want to provide quality care. People deserve it."