COLUMBUS -- Between 900,000 and 1 million needy Ohioans could lose coverage if President Barack Obama's signature health care law is repealed outright, according to a report released Wednesday by a liberal think tank.
Policy Matters Ohio also found that the state could lose some $3.5 billion in federal funding, and hospitals would be on the hook for an additional $15 billion in care for residents seeking emergency health care instead of services from primary care doctors.
More than half of those who stand to lose coverage are white residents, and the majority of Ohioans impacted are working but do not have college degrees, according to the group.
"Republicans in Congress are moving to repeal the [Affordable Care Act]," said Wendy Patton, Policy Matters' senior project director. "There is no plan for replacement. It's a dangerous situation Repealing the ACA without a known replacement will hurt Ohio's people, its budget and its economy. If senators and Congress members are going to break the system, they must make clear how they will fix it."
Policy Matters Ohio released the report during a late morning press conference near the Statehouse that included comments from a Columbus-area doctor, a hospital president and pastor. The church of the latter includes many congregants who rely on Medicaid benefits.
"I consider the repeal of the ACA an act that should be considered cruel and unusual punishment," said Pastor Eric Brown. "It is very unethical to pull the health care rug out from under so many people who didn't have access to affordable health care before the ACA became law Repealing the ACA mean that Congress will have decided who lives and who dies. I would like this nation not to return to the days when racehorses and pedigree dogs get better health care than millions of American citizens."
Speakers at Wednesday's event want members of Congress to take time to develop a replacement of ACA, if they move forward with the repeal. That replacement, they said, should retain coverage for preexisting conditions, the expanded Medicaid population and other provisions of the federal law.
"It is clear that our system is not yet perfect, and reforms are needed," said Beth Liston, an associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics. "However, it's crucial that we continue moving forward from where we are, improving access, working to decrease costs and improve quality. Repealing the ACA takes our country back a decade."
The release of the report came a couple of hours before Gov. John Kasich addressed a gathering of behavioral health professionals in Columbus, where he also voiced concern about an outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Kasich said 700,000 additional Ohioans have health care coverage thanks to the expansion of Medicaid. About one-third of those people, he said, are dealing with drug addiction or mental health issues.
" OK, you want to change the system, I'm for doing that," Kasich said. "But you have to tell me what you're going to do about it, because you can't just tell 700,000 people you can't get help."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.