Senator Heitkamp believes everyone should have access to affordable, quality health care. In 2000, Senator Heitkamp was diagnosed with breast cancer and she beat it. It was a terrifying experience, but she was fortunate because she had good health insurance so she could afford the care she needed. But too many families aren’t so lucky. That’s why Senator Heitkamp is fighting to make sure families get the care they deserve, and to protect North Dakotans with pre-existing conditions – like her breast cancer – from being denied access to affordable care. She’s also working to reduce the cost of health care throughout the country, which puts a strain on the national budget as well as families’ pocketbooks.
Affordable, Quality Health Care
Since joining the U.S. Senate in 2013, Heitkamp has offered numerous commonsense reforms that would help the current health reform law work better for North Dakota families and businesses. She holds regular meetings with her health care advisory board—comprised of health care leaders across North Dakota – to discuss health care in the state and improving the health reform law so families have access to affordable, quality care.
Among many of the reforms Senator Heitkamp has offered over the past several years, she introduced a bill to delay the Health Insurance Tax—a fee that directly impacts health care affordability for families and small businesses – which became law. She also introduced a bill to help make health care affordable for middle income families by easing the current cliff on premium assistance that many middle income families and early retirees face. And she introduced a bill to create a Copper Plan that would provide a more affordable health insurance option for young families.
After hearing from North Dakotans about the challenges they faced during its initial implementation, Senator Heitkamp joined a bipartisan group of five other U.S. senators to introduce a series of commonsense proposals in 2014 that take the next steps toward making the health reform law work better for individuals, families, and small businesses. Senator Heitkamp remains committed to correcting the parts of the health care reform law that do not make sense, improve on others, and implement new ideas that can further control health care costs and improve quality.
Most recently, in June, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) announced that it will not actively defend in court critical health care protections, which safeguard over 300,000 North Dakotans with pre-existing conditions. In response, Sen. Heitkamp helped introduce a resolution in the Senate that would authorize Senate Legal Counsel to stand in for DOJ’s and fight to uphold protections for individuals and children with pre-existing conditions.
This underscores Senator Heitkamp’s long-time belief that Americans do not deserve – nor can they afford - to lose important provisions of the health reform law that protect access to affordable care for the millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions, allow young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they are 26 years old, close the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole,” expand Medicaid, and help middle-class families purchase coverage.
Combating the Opioid Epidemic
Senator Heitkamp has worked extensively to tackle the opioid addiction and abuse crisis in North Dakota. Since fighting North Dakota’s methamphetamine crisis as the state’s attorney general in the 1990s, Senator Heitkamp has been working to stem the tide of addiction, abuse, and illegal drug trafficking in the state’s rural communities. She has held numerous meetings across the state to discuss the federal support communities need to recover from and prevent opioid addiction, and talk about how to help communities combat this epidemic.
At the federal level, Senator Heitkamp has been working to address this issue by passing legislation to combat opioid abuse, helping introduce a bill to provide more federal resources to address the epidemic, and introducing a bill to expand a critical federal grant program to provide $12 billion over five years for local organizations to treat drug abuse and addiction while preventing further overdoses. She also brought both former White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s directors to North Dakota – securing a national focus and strong resources to the state to help fight drug crime as a result.
Senator Heitkamp has long been an advocate to improve rural health care and address the challenges that rural areas face, including higher uninsured rates, workforce shortages, and transportation issues.
As co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Rural Health Caucus, Senator Heitkamp is committed to advocating for rural health issues and protecting safety net health providers by working with top federal officials, local providers, and everyone in between. North Dakota’s rural landscape presents a distinct challenge to providing health care, and health providers rise to the challenge by providing high quality, low cost care. Often times, a local hospital or clinic drives the backbone of the economy of many of the state’s small communities. Various payment models, such as the critical access hospital program and the frontier provision included in the health reform law, make sure providers in remote and rural regions are compensated fairly. Following Senator Heitkamp’s call to give greater attention to the needs of rural health care, the Administration created the Rural Health Council that will give rural communities a stronger voice on the federal rules and regulations that impact them.
Senator Heitkamp successfully pushed to get into law a two-year extension of federal funding for Community Health Centers, the National Health Service Corps, and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program, which focuses on increasing the primary care workforce, particularly in rural and underserved areas. She has introduced bipartisan legislation to incentivize medical professionals to serve in high-need, rural areas and make commonsense regulatory changes that recognize the reality on the ground in rural health care delivery. And she introduced a series of bills that would make sure the federal government is listening closely to the needs and challenges of rural communities in North Dakota and across the country when accessing critical resources like health care.
Trauma, Mental, and Behavioral Health
Senator Heitkamp is a staunch advocate for making sure North Dakotans have access to quality mental and behavioral health care – especially in rural and Native American communities. She has pushed for increased federal funding to make sure that local community health centers have the resources they need to provide services and care and for important provisions that will help students, families, and communities more easily access mental and behavioral health care and services.
Senator Heitkamp has also been working to ensure the impact of childhood trauma – including substance abuse, neglect, abuse, witnessing crime, parental conflict, and mental illness – is better understood and taken into account when proposing solutions to these challenges. Traumatic experiences can lead to severe health and behavioral complications that can impact children throughout their lives. Young people who experience four or more traumatic events are three-times more at risk of heart disease or lung cancer, while those who experience six or more traumatic events are 30-times more likely to attempt suicide.
Senator Heitkamp introduced the Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act, comprehensive legislation to address and mitigate the detrimental impact exposure to trauma can have on children and families – particularly those in Native communities – as they grow and develop. Recognizing the impact of addiction on children, she has successfully pushed to ensure provisions of this bill are incorporated in Congress’s efforts to address the opioids crisis.
Medicare and Medicaid
The Medicare and Medicaid programs have played important roles in the lives of seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income American families for decades. Thousands of children with disabilities, low-income families, and seniors in nursing homes in North Dakota count on Medicaid to get affordable health coverage, and many North Dakota seniors rely on Medicare to help pay for visits to the doctor, hospital stays, and prescription drugs.
Senator Heitkamp has been a champion in the Senate for her efforts to fight against privatization, block grants, or cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
Senator Heitkamp's Recent Work on Health Care
|12/14/18||U.S. Senate Unanimously Passes Heitkamp’s Bill to Help Lower U.S. Maternal Mortality Rates; Legislation Heads to President’s Desk to be Signed Into Law|