BISMARCK, N.D. – Medicaid helps people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford health insurance get coverage.

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, expanded the program, 20,000 more North Dakotans have been able to receive coverage.

Issues with the Affordable Care Act have had many calling for its repeal and replacement for years, but some would like to see parts of the bill left in place.

Raising a child with special needs, Vicki Peterson knows firsthand the impact of Medicaid expansion.

“I’m fortunate right now that my child does access Medicaid, which allows me to work, allows him to be healthy, allows my family to enjoy my son,” said Peterson.

Many Medicaid recipients aren’t people you’d find out and about on a weekday. You’ll find about 50 percent of Medicaid recipients in North Dakota at schools just like this one.

“We need kids to show up to school healthy and fed in order to learn and so anytime you cut that back, you’re going to affect the school readiness of children,” said Nick Archuleta, ND United president.

Senator Heidi Heitkamp says both adults and students could suffer under the American Health Care Act as its written.

Heitkamp said, “There’s things in Obamacare that work like preexisting conditions, like your children on your health insurance, like eliminating the lifetime cap. We can go on and on. Medicaid expansion. Why would we get rid of those? Lets fix what doesn’t work.”

“We do not kick anyone off of Medicaid or Medicaid expansion. As long as they remain eligible for Medicaid expansion, not only will they continue to stay on Medicaid expansion, but the state’s like North Dakota will continue to receive the enhanced match,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.

Still, Peterson worries about the care students will receive.

“It is a lifeline that will be cut. These children will not survive,” said Peterson.

More than 60,000 children in North Dakota relied on Medicaid in the past year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Funding for those kids could be cut by $59 million over the next 10 years, according to a study prepared for the Children’s Hospital Association.

The AHCA has passed the House, but has yet to be taken up for consideration in the Senate.

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Medicaid expansion a sticking point in health care reform – KFYR-TV