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GSI wants Congress to consider jobs as it looks at replacing Obamacare

UPDATED: Thu., June 22, 2017

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the assistant minority leader, departs following final votes after Republicans released their long-awaited bill to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. GOP leaders hope to vote on the bill next week and can only afford two defections from the 52 Senate Republicans but the measure encountered immediate trouble as four Republican senators said they opposed it but were open to negotiations. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the assistant minority leader, departs following final votes after Republicans released their long-awaited bill to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. GOP leaders hope to vote on the bill next week and can only afford two defections from the 52 Senate Republicans but the measure encountered immediate trouble as four Republican senators said they opposed it but were open to negotiations. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

The Spokane-area’s chief business development organization has a message for members of Congress thinking about replacing Obamacare with Trumpcare.

If it’s like the House Republican version, don’t do it. You could cost Spokane jobs.

Greater Spokane Incorporated, a pro-business organization, sent a letter last week to the congressional delegation that represents the area – Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. It made a business argument in favor of the Affordable Care Act, the more formal name for the current federal law on health insurance, over the proposed House replacement.

About one job in five in the Spokane area is related to health care, the letter said, and that has grown by more than 5,200 jobs since 2013. At CHAS Health alone, the number of jobs grew by about 50 percent, to 750 people, since 2014.

“Much of this growth was the result of the ACA providing previously uninsured people with access to coverage through Medicaid or the insurance exchange,” the letter said.

The American Health Care Act, which the House GOP passed in May, would result in a “dramatic reduction” in people eligible for Medicaid coverage, requiring more unreimbursed charity care. It also would reduce reimbursement to health care providers, harming the whole system.

That will ultimately reduce jobs in what GSI considers a “vital sector of our economy.”

Health care reform is complex and has many facets, the letter said. But as Congress moves forward on the issue, the business group said it hopes members consider the “negative ramifications” to jobs and the region’s economy that would come from an increase in people without health insurance.

The bill was co-signed by Todd Mielke, GSI’s chief executive officer, who served as both a Republican Spokane County commissioner and state legislator.

“We are a jobs organization, first and foremost,” Mielke said Thursday. “We have a duty on behalf of our membership to make sure their voice is heard.”

The letter was sent as speculation swirled about what the Senate would do in response to the House bill. The organization is still analyzing the Senate bill, released early Thursday.

Murray said she was encouraged that the business community was speaking against the House Republican bill.

“If Trumpcare is successfully jammed through Congress, the ramifications for our state would be immense,” she said. That includes higher costs for families and, as the letter points out, fewer jobs, she added.

McMorris Rodgers met with GSI when she was in Spokane on Monday. Mielke said she addressed some of their concerns, saying Republicans want a vibrant insurance market and are not backing away from the commitment to people who have increased federal support for Medicaid.

Through a spokesman, McMorris Rodgers said Thursday she “welcomes people’s thoughts and ideas on all issues, including health care.”

She added she was “encouraged” the Senate was moving forward on an effort to fix what she called “our nation’s broken health care system.”

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