MARSHALL - U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is well aware that Republicans are already running ads against him for his decision to not vote to repeal Obamacare, President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act that would require all U.S. citizens to have health insurance. But he can't help but wonder how this summer's campaign will be shaped if the Supreme Court votes it down this summer.
"I think the Supreme Court will strike the law down," Peterson told the Independent during a stop in Marshall on Monday. "Then what happens? That could change the whole debate."
Peterson thinks there are parts of the bill that are good and said if it's repealed altogether, there will still be 40 million or 50 million Americans left uninsured. The cost to treat them, he said, would then fall on everyone else.
"We're all paying for it; they're getting health care and we're paying for it," Peterson said.
Peterson said the health care issue has taken on obvious political undertones, because it's widely assumed the U.S. Senate won't get on board with it. He said he voted to get rid of the individual mandate and wants to work on aspects of health care that he thinks can make it through the Senate.
"Just putting it up to repeal it we're just delaying fixing some of the problems with this," he said. "Let's work on what we can possibly get done. This is purely political - people wanting to keep the issue alive just like before the 2010 election."
Peterson said Republicans are still going to have to deal with the health care issue, even if it gets struck down by the Supreme Court.
"They say they're going to repeal and replace, but they have no replacement," he said. "Nothing."
Peterson said one aspect of new health care ideas that hasn't received much attention is the exchanges that states would be authorized to set up for people who aren't on Medicare or those not employed by large companies and can't get insurance, like farmers.
"Say you've got five employees and one of those employee's kids has diabetes - no company will take you," Peterson said. "What this does is set up an exchange where you have a choice of policies to choose from and you get a better price. If we repeal the bill, then the authority for the exchanges is going to go away. I think that's one of the most important parts of the bill."
He said the exchange piece is key for rural Minnesota because that's where many of the people who can't get insured live - people who aren't part of a big company, and who aren't working for the state or the federal government. He said those are the people who are having a hard time getting affordable insurance.
"Politically it would've been easier to vote to get rid of (Obamacare), then I wouldn't have an election issue, but it's not the right thing to do," Peterson said. "This problem is not going away, so I'll have to fight it out. But if it's voted down by the Supreme Court, it's a moot point."
Peterson said if he had to guess on what the Supreme Court will do with Obamacare, he thinks it will strike it down. The only question to him is if the Court will abolish the whole law or just remove the individual mandate portion of it. The House voted to get rid of the individual mandate, a move Peterson supported. The purpose behind the mandate was to go after free-riders, those who waited to get insurance until they needed it, such as after they were diagnosed with a sickness or disease.
Peterson has had a stranglehold on the Seventh Congressional District seat for more than a decade and faced one of his biggest challenges to date in the 2010 election from Willmar businessman Lee Byberg. Peterson ended up getting re-elected by 17 percentage points.
Minnesota Republicans earlier this month endorsed Byberg over state Sen. Gretchen Hoffman to challenge longtime Peterson in this year's Seventh Congressional District.
The 7th District covers much of western Minnesota, including the cities of Moorhead, Alexandria, Fergus Falls, Crookston, Willmar and Marshall. Redistricting this year will stretch the district north-south district even farther south to include Pipestone and Murray counties and roughly the western two-thirds of Cottonwood County.