With the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the individual mandate provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the state of Massachusetts has entered the spotlight.  This is due to the fact that the state passed a similar healthcare reform bill in 2006.

There has been a lot of attention paid in the media to the PPACA and its potential impact on jobs, and there is a lot of fear in different sectors that hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost due the added expense and administrative burdens required by the PPACA.   This can be a scary thought for those people out looking for a job, because the potential pool of applicants could grow dramatically.

Therefore, it might be worth a visit to Massachusetts to see how their version of healthcare reform has impacted the jobs market.  This look is worthwhile, because the federal legislation was modeled on the Massachusetts law.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has reported that, 6 years after the state of Massachusetts approved its own healthcare reform law, trends are starting to appear.  Some companies are happy and have figured out ways to work within the legislation, while others remain unhappy.

The state now has the country’s highest rate of people with health insurance. The state’s uninsured rate dropped by almost half following the implementation of healthcare reform (from 10.9% to 5.5%). The national data shows a drop of only ½% during the same time period.  As of 2010 (last year of data availability) the state’s uninsured rate was 6.3% (compared with the national rate of 18.4%).

While the gains in health insurance coverage have been notable, the impact of the legislation on the state’s job market and overall economy is less clear.

There seems to be only anecdotal evidence that the state’s healthcare reform has depressed hiring.   According to news reports, the Beacon Hill Institute, estimates that the Massachusetts law has depressed hiring by at least 18,000 jobs (in a state that employees more than 3 million people), though some experts dispute that conclusion.  Restaurants and seasonal operations seem to have had the most trouble meeting the requirements of the law.

In addition the institute’s state competitive report shows that Massachusetts is the “top state in the country for economic growth and income”.  Jobs seem to be moving into the state.

Unemployment in Massachusetts has consistently been lower than the national average; as of July 2012, the unemployment rate was 6.1%, far below the national rate of 8.3%.

But what about our ability to infer national trends based on what the state of Massachusetts has undergone?  Well, none of the extreme predictions came true in Massachusetts.  The state’s economy did not free-fall, nor did the state provide a healthcare utopia to its 6.5 million residents.

In some ways, the PPACA will cause some (operative word being “some”) employers to pause before they hire.  But that is the environment we are all living in right now anyway…..the European debt crisis, hurricanes, terror threats, reports on consumer confidence ….all play into the decision-making process of businesses when they look to hire.

However, the PPACA does have a substantial list of requirements, and all this strategizing, reporting, training, and communication can (and will) impact businesses.  It is time-consuming, complicated, and, because the processes will be “new”, the potential for mistakes will be high (and costly).

There will be new job opportunities for workers who provide record keeping, benefits management, data collection, etc.  Many companies will decide to hire in-house staff to manage these processes or outsource them to other companies who will then need to bring on new workers.

In the healthcare sector, the opportunities for jobs will grow even more.  It is predicted that over 30 million additional Americans will receive health insurance, which will increase the demand for medical care.  This means that not only will the demand for physicians and nurses increase, but the demand for lower-cost-of-entry jobs, such as assistants and technicians, will also increase.  Finally, back-office medical support, including administrative staff, accounting staff, and receptionist staff will also increase.

However, the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, which is not helpful during the job search.  Employers do not have the choice about whether or not to comply – they must comply.  Once the rules and procedures around PPACA have been established, it will become clearer where the job growth may occur.

Snelling is here to help.  We are closely watching the impact that this new national legislation is having on the job market.  So bookmark The Snelling Blog and our Candidate Connection Blog to learn more about your industry and the changes that are coming.  New posts are created weekly, and we welcome your feedback and your thoughts.

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