By John Finnerty
CNHI Harrisburg Correspondent
A report released Thursday found that Medicaid expansion would create more than 30,000 jobs statewide, including 1,200 jobs in the Altoona/Johnstown region, 1,700 in the northcentral portion of the state and 2,500 jobs in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania.
The findings provided further ammunition for Democrats who have been trying to draw attention to Pennsylvania’s disappointing unemployment rate, which is higher than the national average and higher than it was when Gov. Tom Corbett took office in 2011.
“We’re sticking out like a sore thumb,” said Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, Democratic chairman of the appropriations committee.
The governor’s stalling on Medicaid expansion has been frustrating because “it seems to be a no-brainer.”
Sen. Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said that Corbett is due to meet with Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in the coming days to discuss the implications of expanding Medicaid in Pennsylvania.
“I hope the governor will see the light,” Costa said.
The newest job data, included in a report commissioned by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania found that expanding Medicaid would not only create 35,000 to 39,000 new jobs, it would generate $3.2 billion in economic activity, said Paula Bussard, senior vice president.
Significantly, the researchers also calculated that increased tax revenue generated by the Medicaid expansion would surpass any increased costs to the state government. Bussard said researchers found that between 2014 and 2020, Medicaid expansion would lead to $1.6 billion in gross receipts taxes and another $270 million in personal income taxes. Pennsylvania levies a 5.9 percent gross receipts tax on Medicaid managed care organizations
“The bottom line is Medicaid expansion will benefit the state economically, provide a lifeline to the state’s most vulnerable uninsured adults and be critical to fiscal health of health care safety net,” Bussard said.
With the Medicaid expansion, researchers estimate that in 2016 only 5 percent of Pennsylvanians under the age of 65 (about 500,000 people) will have no insurance coverage. Now, about 13 percent, or about 1.3 million people, in that group are uninsured. Due to other changes provided by the Affordable Care Act, even if the Medicaid expansion does not take place, the number of uninsured people in the state will decrease to about 8 percent.