An estimated 37,000 Louisiana jobs will be lost if Congress ends the Medicaid expansion program and premium tax credits linked to the federal Affordable Care Act, according new nonpartisan report.
As Congress debates the merits of the federal health care law, often referred to as "Obamacare," the report from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and nonprofit Commonwealth Fund attempts to show the potential financial hit a full-scale repeal could have on the economy.
The impact on Louisiana: $639.7 million loss in state and local taxes; $39.1 billion loss in business output and a $21.5 billion hit to the gross state product.
The study only looked at the disruption that would be created by the elimination of the premium tax credits that help low and middle income people obtain insurance through the ACA marketplace and the rollback of expanded Medicaid eligibility.
Nationally, the repeal would mean a $2.6 billion loss in jobs in 2019 and a $1.5 trillion drop in gross state products between 2019 and 2023, according to the report.
“Repealing key parts of the ACA could trigger massive job losses and a slump in consumer and business spending that would affect all sectors of state economies,” the report's lead author, Leighton Ku, said in a news release.
Ku is director of the Center for Health Policy Research and professor of health policy and management at the Milken Institute.
The election of Republican President-elect Donald Trump, who campaigned on a pledge to "repeal and replace" the federal Affordable Care Act championed by President Barack Obama, has left the future impact on states like Louisiana in question.
The new study suggests that 32 percent of Louisiana's health care job sector would be lost by the repeal of the two provisions, about 11,900 jobs.
Congress, beginning its new term on Tuesday, has already been working through efforts to repeal the ACA, citing the "mandate" from voters who elected Trump, as well as Republican majorities in the U.S. House and Senate.
Obama huddled with Democrats on Wednesday, encouraging them to protect the health care law, while Vice President-elect Mike Pence met with Republican leaders to push for its repeal.
U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, said this week that lawmakers are working hard to prevent gaps that would lead to major disruptions in coverage and the economy.
"We're going to work hard every day not just to repeal Obamacare but to replace it with reforms that actually put patients back in control of their health care decisions," he said.
Gov. John Bel Edwards in January signed an executive order expanding Medicaid in Louisiana with additional funding provided through the federal health care law. More than 374,000 Louisiana residents have received coverage under the newly-expanded program.
Citing the threat to thousands of people's health care coverage, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from New Orleans who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, said his caucus is prepared to do "everything it can" to preserve the Affordable Care Act.
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"We understand that elections have consequences, but we also know what we fight for," Richmond told reporters Thursday. "This is not a game. You're talking about people's very existence."
But Scalise said he believes the Affordable Care Act has been rife with "broken promises."
"Millions of Americans lost the good health care plans that they liked and expected to keep and are not able to today because of the broken promises of this law," he said.
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U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, said that he thinks Republicans should swiftly adopt a replacement.
"We owe it to the American people to carry out the replacement now, with a smooth transition, so that we can grow the insured population without anyone losing their coverage in the process," he told colleagues from the Senate floor on Thursday.
Cassidy this week took the Senate floor to push his ACA alternative proposal.
"Republicans worked hard to lay the groundwork to repeal and replace Obamacare. President-elect Trump has said he wants repeal and replace to happen at the same time and the Majority Leader has said that we can do a better job covering more people," Cassidy said. "We have the principles, we have the ideas, and we have plans ready to go. So let’s put them to use."