Former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., traveled the state on Tuesday to condemn North Dakota's involvement in a lawsuit declaring the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.
State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem joined Texas v. U.S. earlier this year, much to the opposition of North Dakota Democrats.
In Grand Forks, Dorgan spoke to the Herald about ways the ACA supports farmers, including those with pre-existing conditions.
"Farmers have disproportionately high levels of pre-existing conditions," said Adam Weiland from Dakotans for Health, a group supporting the ACA Dorgan traveled with. "But they're also working in dangerous work too."
"At a time when there's all sorts of other pressures on farmers," Dorgan said, "I think it's just sort of bizarre our attorney general is just trying to see if he can get rid of the Affordable Care Act."
Dorgan, who served on the U.S. Senate from 1992 to 2010, recalled working on the ACA with other leading Democrats. He helped write a provision eliminating a "limited lifetime" rule many insurance companies used to cap consumer spending at $1 million.
Dorgan wasn't aware of the negative impact the rule had on consumers with pre-existing conditions, he said, until a woman with a hemophiliac son reached out and shared her family was at risk of bankruptcy.
"She just never quit," Dorgan recalled, "and she just said, 'Look, someone has to do something to help our family."
Dorgan's provision eventually passed September 2010, and has been in place ever since.
The ACA isn't perfect, Dorgan said. He wishes the law included more ways keep insurance costs down, including a reinsurance program that reimburses providers for high-cost individuals.
But such flaws don't merit North Dakota's participation in Texas v. U.S., Dorgan said.
"Medicare was put in place in the 1960s," Dorgan said. "It's been amended over 60 times."