Rhode Island bizs could lose under ACA repeal

by Eli Sherman
Providence Business News

While the national debate about the future of health care rages on in Washington, D.C., local employers are left to grapple with how repealing the Affordable Care Act might actually impact their individual businesses.

In Rhode Island, that also means thinking about the impact in terms of Medicaid expansion, as funding through the federal entitlement affects local businesses in several ways.

“There are 70,000 Rhode Islanders who are now covered through Medicaid expansion, and many of them work at businesses that cannot afford to provide health insurance coverage to their employees,” said Linda Katz, policy director at The Economic Progress Institute, a progressive think tank in Providence.

“Medicaid has been a great boon not only for the expansion population, but also for businesses,” she added.

When the much-debated Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, rolled out after it was signed into law in 2010, it gave individual states the option to expand Medicaid coverage to a new segment of the population: nondisabled adults aged 19-64 years old.

Rhode Island jumped at the opportunity, and has since expanded the number of people enrolled in Medicaid by 70,000 people, according to state estimates.

Today, nearly 30 percent of Rhode Islanders – or 290,000 people – receive health insurance and/or long-term services and supports through Medicaid, which now faces enormous cuts as Congress contemplates repealing it and replacing it with a new health care law: The American Health Care Act.

Katz argues the bill recently passed by the House will not only gut insurance for more than 100,000 Rhode Islanders, but it could also negatively impact local employers.

“There are employers now faced with the fact that many of their employees, who are currently insured [would become] uninsured – whether that’s through Medicaid or through the number of Rhode Islanders who have been able to get coverage through the state’s health insurance exchange,” Katz said.

There are currently about 30,000 Rhode Islanders who buy coverage through the state-based exchange, Healthsource RI, and about 88 percent of recipients qualify for federal tax credits, while 66 percent qualify for subsidies to pay out-of-pocket costs.