Oct. 26--While the North Dakota insurance commissioner's job is to help ensure an efficient market for insurance in the state, the two candidates for the office both look to Washington and the Affordable Care Act as their main concern if elected.
"That is the biggest challenge being faced by the Insurance Department," said Commissioner Adam Hamm, who is running for re-election against retired UND professor Tom Potter.
Hamm is hoping the health care law, also known as Obamacare, could be repealed if Republican Mitt Romney is elected president. If that happened, his job would be to encourage competition he said has been lost in the market since the law was passed in 2010.
While Hamm, a Republican, sees the health care law as a challenge, his Democratic challenger sees it as an chance to make up for a missed opportunity to fit the law to the state's needs. The last Legislature declined to institute parts of the law here, including creating a state health insurance exchange.
"The insurance commissioner should have been the guy saying, 'Listen, we're North Dakotans. It's our job to make the decisions here,'" said Potter, Grand Forks' only candidate for statewide office.
If elected, Potter said he would work for the implementation of a North Dakota exchange rather than let Washington set up an exchange that might not fit conditions here.
Potter and Hamm also said they would concentrate in the commissioner's traditional role of looking out for insurance customers and making it easy for insurers to do business here.
Potter said he would help keep North Dakota's insurance premiums among the lowest in the country and stressing the importance of home coverage for disasters such as floods and fires.
Hamm said he would continue to concentrate on what he calls the three Cs: consumer protection, competition among insurers and common sense regulation. He emphasized increases in options for health insurance providers and products since he became commissioner in 2007.
Potter said he wanted the department to lead a discussion in the state on lowering health care costs by encouraging wellness, consumer information and changing the approach to end-of-life care.
Candidates' profilesAdam Hamm
--Occupation: Insurance commissioner since 2007.
--Education: Law degree, bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
--Political and professional experience: Prosecutor in Cass County, private law practice; vice president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
--Family: Wife, Michelle; one son and one daughter.
--Occupation: Pastor, professor.
--Education: Bachelor's degree and doctorate in finance, law degree.
--Political and professional experience: Pastor at First Presbyterian Church, Red Lake Falls, Minn.; taught finance at UND for 22 years; financial analyst.
--Family: Wife, Weezie, a former District 17 representative; three children; seven grandchildren.
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