Guest column/Health care has a lot to lose
Posted June 10, 2017 in Op-Eds
By Wendy Patton
As jobs keep getting harder to come by in Jefferson County, more and more residents are finding work in hospitals, nursing homes, doctor’s offices and directly in the homes of patients who need care.
So much so, that in 2015, 23 percent of Jefferson County’s work force held private health care sector jobs — the highest share in the state — according to a report released last month by Policy Matters Ohio.
More than one in every five private sector employees in Jefferson County held a health care job in 2015, and health care jobs have helped make up for the county’s sharp drop in manufacturing jobs since 2000. So, a lot is at stake here if President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans succeed in passing the American Healthcare Act.
Ohio’s 6th Congressional District — represented by Bill Johnson, who voted for the AHCA — can expect to lose 5,372 jobs by 2022 if the AHCA passes through the Senate, according to projections from the Economic Policy Institute. Ohio as a whole could lose 81,385 jobs. Ohio can’t afford any more job losses, especially as we trailed the nation in job growth last year.
It’s not just Jefferson County’s hospital and health care network employees who would be hard hit by the AHCA.
The bill would make dramatic funding cuts to Medicaid, which in 2016, provided health insurance coverage to 24 percent of the county’s non-elderly adults. Jefferson County would be projected to lose between $117 million and $155 million in Medicaid funds between fiscal years 2019 and 2025 under the AHCA.
Under the AHCA, Medicaid expansion in Ohio would come to an end, which would be a huge hit to the 12.8 percent of adults in Jefferson County who enrolled in Medicaid through this program.
Under expansion, many previously un- or under-insured Ohioans have gotten better care for chronic conditions, ongoing preventative health care and addiction treatment. Ongoing access to health services can be the difference between life and death for people with conditions like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Under expansion, the number of low-income Ohioans without insurance hit the lowest levels ever recorded, which means that more people are able to get care, and service providers like hospitals and health networks are able to provide care in more cost-effective ways, before a deferred medical problem turns into an expensive, or deadly, medical crisis.
Residents of Jefferson County are aging even faster than Ohio as a whole, which means the high premiums and out-of-pocket expenses older Americans will face under the AHCA could make health care unaffordable or unavailable for many residents.
Dubbed an “age tax” by the AARP, a typical 60-year-old who makes $22,000 a year would pay $8,000 a year more in premiums (after accounting for tax credits) under the AHCA.
Who can afford this?
No one can. Health care means too much to this region’s economic future, and the health of our residents, to allow the AHCA to go through.
(Patton is the senior project director for the State Fiscal Project.)