BISMARCK-Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., on Monday, Aug. 13, joined in condemnation of a federal lawsuit, to which the state of North Dakota is a party, that seeks to overturn the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional.

"I don't think anyone should have started this lawsuit," she said. "I think that the solution to what you disagree with on the ACA is to legislate it."

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The former state attorney general was in Bismarck for a roundtable discussion with residents who shared their experiences in acquiring or affording medical care, with pre-existing conditions that ranged from purchasing cheaper insulin in Canada to caring for disabled adult children.

Heitkamp stressed the need for Congress to address "the bad" in the ACA, but keep "the good," such as coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Heitkamp, who is a breast cancer survivor, also said the debate over health care should "stop fighting the things that are working," and turn to issues such as prescription drug costs and respite care, or temporary relief for family caregivers.

The first-term Democratic senator now seeking re-election added she thinks the lawsuit, if successful, would "devastate" families with pre-existing conditions because "once again ... your access to insurance-affordable insurance, in particular-will depend on whether you've been healthy your entire life."

Last year, Heitkamp opposed Republican efforts to repeal the ACA, citing loss of coverage and increased premiums for thousands of North Dakota residents.

The North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party last week called for state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem to withdraw from the Texas federal lawsuit which involves 20 states. The party has said 316,000 North Dakota residents with pre-existing conditions "would lose the critical ACA safeguards" for which they are eligible, if the lawsuit prevails.

Stenehjem and state Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread have criticized that number, which Democratic-NPL spokesman Alex Rich said the party sourced from the Center for American Progress.

"It literally is a matter of life and death for people," Heitkamp said Monday.