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Repealing Obamacare would be 'devastating,' top Pa. officials say

Top Pennsylvania officials  said Monday that they were bracing for "disastrous" consequences if Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act is repealed - including the loss of health insurance for more than 670,000 Pennsylvanians, many from poor and rural areas.

And 400,000 more residents who signed up for coverage through Obamacare's insurance exchange will also be left in the lurch, they said.

"There would be no way for the state to continue to provide health care for those folks," Ted Dallas, secretary for human services, said shortly before a Capitol rally on keeping the law intact. "Repeal without replacement would have potentially devastating impacts across the state."

The state's two top financial officers echoed that sentiment Monday, saying a repeal would also lead to the loss of thousands of jobs and contribute to the state's already-gaping budget deficit, which is projected to grow to $1.7 billion this summer without steps to address it.

The warnings from the administration of Democratic Gov. Wolf came as President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress prepared to begin acting on one of his pledges: to repeal or replace the ACA.

A study by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a Harrisburg-based, liberal-leaning think tank, concluded that more than 137,000 Pennsylvania workers in health care and other fields would lose their jobs.

The report also found that the state's deficit could grow by $1.4 billion, in part because the state would once again have to pick up the tab for several health-care programs that the ACA now pays for.

"There will be irreparable harm if Medicaid expansion is rolled back - and it will fall disproportionately on our lowest-income residents," Treasurer Joseph M. Torsella said at a joint news conference Monday with Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

DePasquale stressed that Medicaid expansion has helped 63,000 residents get drug treatment - a critical tool in fighting what Wolf has called an epidemic of opioid addiction and overdoses.

"We obviously know these are divisive times," DePasquale said, noting that governors regardless of political party are urging that a replacement plan be put into place before a repeal. "The impact of this, if not done right, will last for decades."