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Group pushes for universal health insurance

BISMARCK -- Members of a North Dakota group have joined a national campaign that will spend $40 million this year to push for a government health insurance plan, an organizer said Tuesday.

BISMARCK -- Members of a North Dakota group have joined a national campaign that will spend $40 million this year to push for a government health insurance plan, an organizer said Tuesday.

Don Morrison of NDPeople.Org said the goal is an "inclusive and accessible health care system in which no one is left out."

He said universal health care will save money in the long run and 18,000 lives a year.

"It is a moral issue. It is a justice issue," said the Rev. Wade Schemmel, conference minister of the Northern Plains Conference of the United Church of Christ, during Tuesday's announcement in the Capitol.

Morrison said the effort, called Health Care for America Now, was being launched Tuesday in North Dakota and 43 other states.

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People who want a private health insurer, including one they already may have, can keep or get private insurance under the goals of the campaign. Others can enter a "public insurance plan without a private insurer middleman that guarantees affordable coverage."

Another backer, West Fargo (N.D.) High School band teacher Mark Berntson, said there are people in North Dakota for whom a health insurance policy's premium would exceed what they earn.

Berntson is involved because he is vice president of the North Dakota Education Association. NDEA and the National Education Association back the plan.

Morrison said a health care system in which the first question isn't, "What will make me healthy?" but "What does your insurance cover?" is "a system that is upside down."

Cole writes for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.

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