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Thousands of newly insured will boost the Coachella Valley economy in 2014

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The Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA or Obamacare) has been a constant presence in the headlines over the past few months, mainly because of technical issues with its rollout. Republicans and Democrats dominate the airwaves with their political posturing -- pointing fingers and making sweeping generalizations about the "success" or "failure" of this long overdue landmark healthcare legislation.

Signed into law in March 2010, the ACA is a complex bundle of healthcare legislation, consisting of many separate components that have been (or will be) rolled out in phases through the next decade. Some Republicans urge the "repeal" of Obamacare. This would not only be difficult and costly, but it would also be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Popular and beneficial features of the law would disappear, including: the elimination of lifetime and unreasonable annual limits on benefits, the ability for dependents to stay on their parents' plan until age 26, and the ability for those with pre-existing conditions to obtain insurance coverage.

Here in the Coachella Valley, the healthcare sector has continued to grow despite the deep recession and slow recovery of the past few years. According to the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership's 2013 Economic Report, the number of healthcare jobs in the valley grew 17% during the period from July 2007 to July 2013. The CVEP anticipates continued economic growth due to Obamacare, since many of the nearly 100,000 valley residents identified by the 2012 Census as not having health insurance have become eligible under the ACA for new healthcare plans and subsidies beginning January 1st. This will likely boost demand for services from the area's world-class healthcare facilities, including the Desert Regional Medical Center, John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, Eisenhower Medical Center, and the Betty Ford Center. Since much of this funding comes from insurers and government agencies outside the area, those healthcare dollars that flow into the Coachella Valley economy will help drive the rest of the valley's economy in 2014 and for years to come.

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