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How President Biden's Build Back Better could benefit Cleveland's growing healthcare industry

University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.
Posted at 6:42 PM, Nov 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-22 19:33:55-05

CLEVELAND — President Biden’s $1.7 trillion Build Back Better Act, passed by the House on Friday and now awaiting action in the Senate, would be the biggest expansion of America's social safety net in 50 years. Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) says providing more care by covering more services would also be a shot in the arm for Cleveland's largest employers, the healthcare industry.

"It's money that will help all of the healthcare providers in the region and that means jobs and growth and development, and nobody knows that better than Cleveland,” Ryan said.

Cleveland knows it because they've lived it over the last decade following the passing of the Affordable Care Act and the state's expansion of Medicaid in 2013. Then-Governor John Kasich issued a warning at the time to those in his party that were attempting to block him from adding 700,000 Ohioans to the rolls of the insured.

"You want to create chaos? Don't pass this and see what happens to the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals up there in Cleveland,” Kasich said in 2013. “It will be a very bad impact on them."

It was passed, and the impact, in turn, was not choas, but significant growth in the area's healthcare industry. Since 2014, the Cleveland Clinic has become the state's largest employer, watching its total number of employees grow by 11,600 or 28%. University Hospitals grew by 58% from 19,375 to 30,650. Even MetroHealth, which, a decade ago was laying off workers to balance the books because of growing levels of uncompensated care, grew by 39%, from 5,600 to 7,800 employees, and is a year away from the opening of its new hospital, a building that will provide many of those increased services under the Act.

"It means jobs, it means development,” Ryan said. “You watch what Metro's going to do over the next few years — they're going to take down buildings, green space, more jobs.”

And they are not alone. There are 245 hospitals in the state, and the Ohio Hospital Association said most saw growth since 2013.

"So all of a sudden we had a huge shift of uninsured going into the insured and having access to the insured and having access to healthcare coverage and becoming beneficiaries of the Medicaid program,” said OHA’s John Palmer.

The downside of the dramatic growth was the dramatic increase in the need for medical workers over the last seven years that led to shortages that were brought to light during the pandemic. Those are shortages that hospitals, universities and Washington continue to address as the demand will only grow for healthcare workers in the coming years.