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Obamacare repeal could cost Kentucky 45,000 jobs, study says

In this 2015 photo, the HealthCare.gov website, where people can buy health insurance.
In this 2015 photo, the HealthCare.gov website, where people can buy health insurance. AP

Repealing two key pieces of the Affordable Care Act could cost Kentucky nearly 45,000 jobs in 2019 because of reduced federal spending, according to a new study.

The Commonwealth Fund, a non-profit that supports increased access to health care that has come under the law commonly known as Obamacare, released the study Friday as Republicans in Congress gear up to dismantle it.

The study analyzed the effect of ending federal premium tax credits aimed at helping people afford health insurance and federal payments to states to help cover the cost of expanding Medicaid.

There are several other parts to the law, but those are likely early targets of opponents, the study said.

The study concluded that ending those provisions would result in Kentucky losing 44,600 jobs.

More than a third would be health care jobs, but employment in construction, retail and other fields also would drop as the effects of reduced federal spending spread through the economy, the study said.

The report said the repeal would lead to $40.6 billion less in business output in Kentucky between 2019 and 2023 and the loss of $718 million in state and local taxes.

Federal spending boosts the economy, but when funds are cut, the results “play out in the other direction, triggering losses in employment, economic activity, and state and local revenues,” the report said.

Nationwide, ending the two provisions cited in the study would result in 2.6 million fewer jobs in 2019, the study said.

The report said the findings are noteworthy because of “debunked” claims that the federal health care law has killed jobs, citing a January 2016 PolitiFact report that said the number of jobs in the country grew by 10.7 million from April 2010, when the law went into effect, through the end of 2015.

In addition, uncompensated care costs would “soar” for hospitals and health care providers at the same time they lost revenue, the study said.

Federal figures show that 600,000 Kentuckians have gained insurance as a result of the health law, according to the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

“We do have research showing it’s provided a great deal more access,” said former U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, president of the foundation.

The Commonwealth Fund said in a report last month that between 2013 and 2015, the state had the biggest drop in the nation in the percentage of low-income people of working age without health insurance, as well as the biggest increase in access to care.

However, the Kentucky Hospital Association has complained about the law hurting hospitals’ revenue and forcing layoffs, and on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the law has been a disaster.

McConnell cited increases in premiums and deductibles that make insurance unaffordable for many; insurance companies “fleeing” the exchanges set up under the law, which will mean a lack of choice for many people; and people losing access to doctors, hospitals and health plans they liked.

“Obamacare is making things worse, and we now have a moral imperative to repeal and replace it — to bring relief to families now,” McConnell said.

Sara Collins, a vice president of the Commonwealth Fund, said the law is not perfect, but that problems with affordability and other issues could be fixed through legislation.

“The law is generally functioning very well,” she said.

The administration of Gov. Matt Bevin could not comment Thursday on the report because there hadn’t been sufficient time to examine the methods used in the study, said Doug Hogan, spokesman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

It’s clear, however, that the “failed Obamacare experiment” has burdened employers and providers, destabilized insurance markets, increased consumer premiums and added significant costs to taxpayers, Hogan said.

Republicans have vowed to do away with the ACA and replace it with something better, but have not said what the new system will include.

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