Report: S.C. will lose jobs when Obamacare is repealed

Charleston Post and Courier
January 6, 2017

By Lauren Sausser

South Carolina will lose nearly 30,000 public and private sector jobs and more than $1 billion in revenue and taxes over several years if Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act, a new study estimates.

The report predicts one-third of those lost jobs would come from the health care industry.

“Contrary to the common misconception that the health reform law has been a ‘job killer,’ this study indicates that repeal of these policies, without sound replacement policies, could cause major job losses and economic dislocation in every state, even in states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs,” experts at The Commonwealth Fund and the Milken School of Public Health at George Washington University wrote.

The report, published Friday, estimates that the U.S. would lose 2.6 million jobs in 2019 if the law is repealed. And its repeal is all but certain. President-elect Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress have vowed to quickly dismantle the Affordable Care Act this year, even as they debate how to replace it and when to phase it out.

The ongoing discussion will be tracked closely.

“I can say that South Carolina hospitals are very concerned about the potential negative economic impacts … if the ACA is repealed without a viable replacement plan,” said Schipp Ames, a spokesman for the S.C. Hospital Association.

The Affordable Care Act forced hospitals to change the way they did business, he said, and the industry “deeply invested” in those changes.

“In addition, health care providers were dealt steep cuts to Medicare and other payments with the idea that expanded health coverage would help mitigate those cuts,” Ames said. “If the mechanisms of the ACA that expand coverage are repealed, we would urge that the ACA’s cuts to health care providers be restored.”

But hospitals aren’t the only businesses that would feel the effects of Obamacare’s repeal. The study by The Commonwealth Fund and George Washington University reports that jobs in construction, real estate, retail, insurance and financial sectors could also be cut.

“This is very threatening to our local economy,” said Frank Knapp, president of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “Any time you pull money away from workers, it reduces their demand for goods and services in their community, which has a direct impact on small businesses.”

Since the federal Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, numbers published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show health care jobs in South Carolina have grown by more than 10 percent. A report published in December by the congressional Joint Economic Committee shows jobs in “education and health services” have increased 19.5 percent in this state since February 2010, the second-strongest sector for job gains. Across all sectors, South Carolina businesses added jobs during this time frame at a higher rate than the national average.

Meanwhile, new enrollment numbers show patients are enrolling in Obamacare insurance in record numbers here.

In November and December alone, more than 212,000 South Carolinians signed up or automatically re-enrolled in a plan, nearly more than last year’s total over three months of enrollment.

Still, the law remains unpopular among many South Carolinians. Ted Pitts, executive director of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, said it’s too early to tell how the repeal would impact this state.

“The business community agrees with the new administration and congressional leadership that ACA should be replaced,” Pitts said. “We also agree that the smart thing to do is to have a replacement plan first.”


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