Today’s Supreme Court ruling clears the way for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to provide a twin boost to local economies across Washington. When fully implemented in 2014, more than 800,000 uninsured residents will gain access to health coverage[i], and federal funding will create new jobs in the health care sector – the majority of which are held by women.
Health care jobs critical to state economy and family security
Health care is a vital sector for Washington’s economy – nearly 300,000 people work in health care sectors across Washington, representing about 10% of the state’s nonfarm jobs overall.[ii] More than 234,000 (78%) of those working in health care are women.[iii]
Today’s families are increasingly reliant on women’s earnings – about four in ten moms are the primary breadwinners for their families. By creating jobs in the health sector, the ACA will help improve economic stability for women, their families, and their communities across the state.New health care jobs will promote broad economic opportunity
The state’s economic recovery has been dampened by budget cutbacks over the past few years. While growth in health industries has been positive overall, it has flattened substantially as state spending on health programs has declined.[iv] To date, health industries have been growing at a slower pace than the state’s overall economy in 2012.
Upholding the ACA improves those prospects because the health sector covers a broad range of occupations, providing both entry-level jobs and those requiring higher levels of education and training.[v] More than half of new openings in Washington’s healthcare sectors will be technical and support positions, while 10% will be for doctors, according to one recent estimate.[vi]
How state policymakers could respond
State lawmakers will next consider how the state’s Basic Health Plan will evolve. Under the ACA, Washington has the option to offer the Federal Basic Health Program to eligible residents, alongside plans available through a new state health insurance exchange. The state still has to decide whether or not to create a federal basic health option, either as a stand-alone program or as a new combined program with Medicaid.
State Sen. Karen Keiser and Rep. Eileen Cody, chairwomen of their respective chambers’ health committees, will lead a summit for lawmakers, policymakers and others to develop a response to the Supreme Court’s decision and to plan health-reform initiatives for the next legislative session. The event, which is open to the public to observe, will be 10 a.m. to noon July 25 on the state Capitol campus, in the ABC conference room of the John A. Cherberg Building, 198 15th Ave. S.W., Olympia.
[i] Mike Kreidler, “The Affordable Care Act in Washington state: A county-by-county analysis, May 2012, Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner, http://www.insurance.wa.gov/publications/agency_reports.shtml.
[iii] U.S. Census Bureau, Quality Workforce Indicators, four quarter average (Q3 2010-Q2 2011): http://lehd.did.census.gov/led/datatools/qwiapp.html.
[iv] State spending on health services declined by $1.7 billion between 2009-11. Marilyn Watkins, “A Jobs and Economic Recovery Plan for Washington,” Economic Opportunity Institute, October 2011, www.eoionline.org.
[v] Washington Employment Security Department, “Learn About an Occupation,” https://fortress.wa.gov/esd/employmentdata/reports-publications/occupational-reports/occupations-in-demand, viewed June 21, 2012.