Issues relating to Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection Act and the State Health Insurance Counseling Program were featured at a debate Tuesday, Sept. 27, among candidates for North Dakota insurance commissioner.

The three candidates - Democrat Ruth Buffalo, Republican Jon Godfread and Libertarian Nick Bata - gathered at Prairie Public studio in downtown Fargo for the debate, which was sponsored by the broadcaster and AARP. The candidates, who all ran unopposed in their parties' primaries, aim to replace incumbent Adam Hamm, who is not seeking re-election Nov. 8.

Godfread, who described himself as an "insurance nerd," said he was excited about the role of insurance commissioner and discussed the position's importance in consumer protection. He is currently vice president of governmental affairs for the Greater North Dakota Chamber.

"You've got really two options when you've got an issue with your insurance company or claim," Godfread said. "It's to take your insurance company to court or to go to the insurance commissioner's office. I'd liken taking your insurance company to court to a modern day David and Goliath. So that's why this office is important."

Buffalo said she has "top three priorities" if she is elected: "increasing access to behavioral health services, forming a stronger partnership with Workforce Safety & Insurance and providing effective community engagement throughout the state."

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She said the state is in a "critical junction" because of the epidemic of drug overdose deaths.

"We can no longer ignore the gaps within our state," Buffalo said, adding her master's degrees in management and public health uniquely qualify her for the position.

Bata said his campaign for insurance commissioner is in "stark contrast to the status quo that's represented on this stage."

"People are extremely frustrated with government," Bata said. "My whole campaign has been focused on coming back to capitalism. ... Health care and insurance have been destroyed by government intervention."

Godfread and Bata both criticized the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, while Buffalo described it as having a great deal of unreached potential.

The insurance commissioner debate will be broadcast on Prairie Public's television network at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, and rebroadcast 2:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 9, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6.

All debates will be available online at prairiepublic.org after their initial televised broadcasts.