One belief I think we all share, regardless of political affiliation, is the importance of people working. Having a job doesn’t only benefit society, it helps individuals in numerous ways, ranging from identity to pride in supporting one’s family.

You know what helps people get a job, according to a study from University of Michigan? Having healthcare.

This is something you may have seen in your facilities that traditionally struggle to fill low-income positions. Dietary workers, certified nursing assistants and housekeepers all benefit from health insurance that may have been unattainable five years ago. In Michigan, the access to an expanded Medicaid program led residents to report that their health insurance allowed them to seek a new or better job and do a better job at work.

There were more than 4,000 people surveyed in the study, of which 80% had incomes below the federal poverty level and 28% were unemployed. All were covered by the Medicaid expansion, called the Healthy Michigan Plan.

The 55% of those who were out of work said the coverage made them able to look for a job and 69% said they did better at work once they had health insurance.

Why? Let’s look at a fantastic feature from Vox that followed Michigan recipients, such as a housekeeper working in a hotel that didn’t offer health benefits. She signed up for the Healthy Michigan Plan in 2014. Before that, not having insurance meant she would sometimes skip her heart disease or pre-diabetes medications because she couldn’t afford the $7 copayment. Under the expansion, she doesn’t pay for her prescriptions and is able to come in for a physical, and her husband, a chef, was able to get a benign tumor removed from his neck.

Both of those folks could easily be working in your facility. The expansion of Medicaid not only prevented their suffering, but it allowed them to keep working. It also saved taxpayers an unknown but likely huge amount of money from when they eventually ended up in an emergency room with no insurance and complicated medical conditions.

For those beneficiaries that aren’t yet employed, many of them are now able to try and find work. One aspect is literally more jobs. One study from the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation found the Medicaid expansion in Michigan created 30,000 new jobs in the state. Researchers also found that before the Medicaid expansion, people paid an average of $500 in out-of-pocket healthcare costs. By having that money back, beneficiaries can, for example, afford bus fare to an interview, eat a meal beforehand, pay a sitter to watch their child and spend time working on their resume.  

Many of us have spent our careers never worrying about our health insurance being taken away. Even as our premiums may rise, many of us have likely have never worried about the cost of our prescriptions or that a doctor’s visit would mean we couldn’t pay our rent that month.

The fate of many of the members of our long-term care family are now in the hands of the Senate as it debates the future of the Affordable Care Act. Putting aside the desire for the White House and the GOP to have a “win” — apparently the absolute sole goal of the President of the United States — we shall see how well constituents respond if their healthcare is taken away.

It’s not all doom and gloom. I wrote last week about how Good Samaritan’s Mark McElfee understands the importance of health insurance to the point of setting up a campus clinic. Perhaps if Medicaid is taken away from people, more programs such as his will spring up.

But I sure wouldn’t count on it.

Follow Elizabeth Newman @TigerELN.