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New Medicaid study: Expansion would create 30,000 AL jobs

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Medicaid expansion could lead to tens of thousands of new jobs in Alabama. That's the conclusion reached by the authors of a new study that examined the economic impact of the implementation of that particular section of the Affordable Care Act.

The Alabama Hospital Association commissioned the study which was conducted by the University of Alabama's Center for Business and Economic Research.

"Alabama will significantly gain jobs and the associated income, grow its GDP, increase business activity, and generate much-needed tax revenues if it chooses to undertake Medicaid expansion under the ACA," said Alabama Hospital Association President, Michael Horsley in a statement.

The Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, originally included a mandatory expansion of the state-run healthcare program for the poor, infants, and the elderly. However, the United States Supreme Court decision last June to uphold the law as a tax, gutted the mandatory Medicaid expansion provision and instead left the decision up to the states on whether to expand the program.

Under the law, the federal government would cover the cost of the entire expansion, 100%, from 2014-2016, decreasing in matching funds until the year 2020. From 2020 thereafter, the federal government would cover 90% of the cost of Medicaid expansion, while the states would have to cover the remaining 10%.

According to the study, Alabama could stand to gain approximately 30,000 direct and indirect jobs as a result of Medicaid expansion.

Horsley continued in the statement saying, "Every industry would benefit, and the additional taxes generated would more than cover any additional state costs."

The jobs created according to the study would be across the spectrum and would not be simply limited to healthcare jobs. Thousands of jobs in retail, professional services, and support services would be created in addition to the roughly 11,000 projected healthcare related jobs.

Alabama's governor has refused to expand Medicaid. He has called Alabama's Medicaid program a "broken system" and one that wouldn't improve in its current state if the state were to add more to the rolls.

According to different studies conducted by healthcare economists at UAB Medical Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation, as many as 350,000 Alabamians currently without healthcare would benefit from the Medicaid expansion.

Governor Robert Bentley, a Republican, has never completely ruled out Medicaid expansion but in recent weeks has been more negative about the prospect of expanding the healthcare program to those without any kind of coverage.

During a recent interview, Gov. Bentley said, "the closest thing to eternal life on this earth is an entitlement program." Gov. Bentley added that the country is in debt and the federal healthcare law is a fiscally irresponsible measure.

The state has until the end of 2013 to expand Medicaid, or else it will miss out on $375 million in federal payments during the first quarter of 2014.

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