HARRISBURG – As the Trump administration begins dismantling the Affordable Care Act put into place by his predecessor, longtime opponents of the sweeping health care reform are working to figure out what to replace it with.
But with no clear alternative plan on the horizon, the state’s top fiscal officials have some ominous warnings for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians.
Dollars, jobs, Medicaid plans — it’s all about the numbers in the Capitol. Warren Hudak is concerned about different ones.
“Our premiums went from $600 a year to now $2,400 a year,” Hudak said Monday.
The owner of a regional accounting firm was optimistic when the ACA, also known as Obamacare, passed. Now, “as a business owner,” he said, “it’s challenging because I can’t plan from year to year. I have no idea what next year’s going to bring.”
Hudak is far from alone in that uncertainty, but now state leaders warn repealing the act without another plan in place would have “devastating consequences.”
“This is something that matters to real people every single day,” Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said at a news conference Monday morning.
DePasquale joined newly-elected treasurer Joe Torsella — both of them Democrats — to lay out the Medicaid numbers.
Gov. Tom Wolf fully expanded Medicaid coverage in 2015 under the ACA. Since then, the fiscal officers said, 675,000 new people are covered. Some of those people would be able to find other insurance if the expansion is repealed, Torsella said, but he estimated 585,000 of them (including 100,000 children) would not be covered.
The state received just under $3 billion in payments from the federal government in the last fiscal year due to the expansion, he said, and tens of thousands of jobs were directly created.
That will be lost, the pair said, if it’s rolled back.
“I know that that loss of economic activity will result in a loss of revenues both at the state level and at the local government level,” Torsella said.
“If you can get people to have quality access to quality insurance, you’re going to have the jobs in the medical profession,” state Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-Cumberland, said in an interview after the news conference. “That’s not the question we’re looking at here.”
The question, he said, is how to find a replacement that ensures people hurting now get better coverage, too. “The ACA, Obamacare, the Medicaid expansion, that’s not doing it.”
It remains to be seen which parts of the ACA — if any — congressional leaders will want to keep in the plan that they agree on to replace it.