Federal lawmakers have set their sights on repealing the Affordable Care Act as quickly as possible. According to a new study, if they succeed, Texas could lose thousands of jobs in the coming years, but it could be more than just health care jobs.
Leighton Ku is a research director at George Washington University. Together with the Commonwealth Fund he released some projections on the effect of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act on jobs here in the U.S.
"At the national level we said, assuming that the repeal begins in 2019, that 2.6 million jobs could be lost across the country," Ku said. "In Texas, we were talking about 175,000 jobs that could be lost."
He says that's, of course, if there's no replacement for the health care law, lots of people lose their health insurance. Jesus Garza, CEO of the Seton Healthcare System, says he's hopeful there won't be masses of people losing their insurance. But, if they do, Garza says it would be a big change in Texas.
"Health care is a job-creator, and I think the benefits of the Affordable Care Act – at least in Texas through the exchanges – provided an increased level of business for all of the health care providers," he said.
Garza explains because more people got health insurance, health care providers like hospitals had to hire more people to take care of these new patients.
"Were it to take place – that all of a sudden that goes away and people don't have the ability to get access to care – then I can see how some jobs will be lost as a result of that," Garza said.
Ku’s research found that would only be the tip of iceberg. He says only about a third of the jobs lost will be in the health care sector, and that sectors like construction, real estate, finance and retail could also be affected.
"This is something that economists sometimes describe as the ‘multiplier effect,' because money does not just stay in one place," Ku said. "When you get money, you want to go spend it someplace, and it goes into other pockets, as well. And that's why the economic effects ripple out beyond health care."
Garza says, overall, a lot of people could be affected by that ripple, but Central Texas and other urban parts of the state will likely be better off. Here in Austin, we have the Central Health taxing district. So, a lot of local tax dollars go to making sure people have access to health care.
"It is really the rural areas that one has to worry about. Those areas don't have a lot of resources," Garza said. "There’s rumors [that] people are worried about what's going to happen to rural hospitals, if all of a sudden some funding sources get compromised. And those are things we always have to worry about."
According to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, roughly 28 percent of those surveyed want a replacement announced before lawmakers repeal the current health law – a fifth of respondents said the law needs to be repealed now.