Julie Schnell, Repeal Would be Job Killing

This post first appeared at www.mn2020.org on January 31, 2011.

“… if your interest is to make health care available to more Americans, this should be a happy day for you – no matter what your ideological beliefs.”

The quote above about the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA) comes not from Daily Kos or even the New York Times. In fact, the quote comes from columnist Rick Ungar of Forbes Magazine, a publication whose motto is “The Capitalist Motto.” Why are they so bullish on the Affordable Care Act? The answer is simply that healthcare reform is already working exactly as intended and is good for our country’s and Minnesota’s bottom line.

In all the clamor from the new GOP majority about repealing healthcare reform, including from our own Reps. Bachmann, Kline, and Cravaack, they have failed to be frank with citizens about the real consequences.

Repealing the PPACA would cost Minnesota thousands of jobs, shackle small businesses with unaffordable healthcare options, exacerbate our state and national budget woes, and put power back in the hands of the insurance companies that have held patients hostage for decades.

As President of union representing 17,000 healthcare workers, I can speak first-hand about the PPACA’s positive impact on healthcare jobs in Minnesota. By accepting $1.4 billion in federal funds through an Executive Order to expand our Medicaid program, Governor Dayton has saved or created more than 20,000 healthcare-related jobs. Twin Cities hospitals cut hundreds of jobs in 2010 – including at North Memorial and Children’s – citing state Medicaid cuts as a key reason. In this time of economic uncertainty and with a seven percent unemployment rate in Minnesota, the last thing we ought to do is destroy more jobs.

In addition to saving jobs, the PPACA is easing the healthcare burden for America’s jobs engine: small businesses. According to the Forbes column, “the tax cut created in the new health care reform law providing small businesses with an incentive to give health benefits to employees is working” (emphasis theirs).

UnitedHealth has enrolled 75,000 new workers from businesses with fewer than 50 employees and Coventry Health Care has reported enrolling more than 115,000 workers from small businesses. “If these small businesses found the new law to be so onerous,” asks Ungar, “why have so many of them voluntarily taken advantage of the benefits provided in the law to give their employees these benefits?”

Opponents of healthcare reform may call it a small business killer, but the early data suggest that it is allowing small businesses to offer better and more competitive benefits to their employees.

Perhaps most worrisome to me are the ideological blinders put on by the GOP when it comes to the PPACA’s impact on our budget. If Congress repeals it, they will add over one trillion dollars to our national debt over the next 20 years. That simple fact says more about their fiscal responsibility than any amount of campaign rhetoric.

Here in Minnesota, repeal of PPACA would eliminate the aforementioned $1.4 billion in new Medicaid funding, as well as the state planning grants we receive to set up our health insurance exchange and prepare for other key components of effective reform implementation. Yet again, opponents of healthcare reform are leading with their ideological spin and hoping the rest of us take the leap with them and ignore all evidence of healthcare reform’s early success.

Finally, and most importantly, PPACA’s repeal would take away all the checks we have placed on the most egregious insurance company practices. Repeal would once again put insurance companies’ profits ahead of our nation’s health. Over 350,000 Minnesotans would once again be at risk of having their insurance policies rescinded at the exact moment they need coverage most. Innumerable Minnesotans would once again be denied insurance policies due to pre-existing conditions. And over 11,000 young adults in Minnesota would be kicked off their parents’ health plans, putting them one accident away from lifelong debt. Unlike opponents of meaningful reform, I am not willing to sacrifice the health of Minnesotans to the profit-driven health insurance industry.

The new GOP majority wants to have their cake and eat it too with the repeal of health care reform. They talk about job creation, but vote to eliminate thousands of healthcare-related jobs and deny small businesses the health insurance affordability they need to expand. They talk about reducing the deficit, but vote to explode the deficit by allowing health care costs to skyrocket once again. They talk about the rights of individual health care “consumers,” but vote to give unlimited power back to insurance companies to deny care.

The inconvenient truth, for them, is that the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act is already working as intended to provide quality, affordable healthcare to more Americans at a lower cost. And that is a good thing – no matter what your ideological beliefs.

Julie Schnell is president of SEIU Health Care Minnesota, a union representing 17,000 health care workers in the state.

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