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Stenehjem again defends involvement in ACA lawsuit

Wayne Stenehjem, during a stop in Fargo on May 19, 2016. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service file photo

BISMARCK — North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem again defended the state's participation in lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act Tuesday, Aug. 14.

In a letter to state Rep. Corey Mock and state Sen. Joan Heckaman, the Democratic minority leaders in their respective chambers, Stenehjem said it's his duty to "support and defend the constitution." He said Congress has repealed the tax penalties for individuals who don't buy health insurance, meaning the "remaining constitutional support for the law is now gone."

Stenehjem's letter came in response to a letter Democrats sent last week asking him to withdraw from the Texas-led lawsuit. They called it an "inappropriate approach to fix what is wrong with our health care system."

Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread said Democrats' claims that the lawsuit is endangering health insurance access for "hundreds of thousands of North Dakotans" is "irresponsible," according to Stenehjem's letter. Both Godfread and Stenehjem are Republicans, and Stenehjem is running for re-election this year.

Stenehjem said Godfread's department is studying options for reducing health insurance rates while maintaining coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. He said North Dakota is not "expending any resources to participate" in the Texas lawsuit, which would continue regardless of whether North Dakota is involved.

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