One thing that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) does is allow people to leave bad jobs. Now that the threat of being uninsured while looking for a new job, or worrying about having to find one that has benefits, is gone. With the ACA’s tax subsidies, many people now find that they can afford the premiums of individual health plans, without having to go through their employer.
An article in The Huffington Post discusses a Trader Joe’s employee, who left after they decided to stop providing insurance to their part-time employees. Melissa O’Rourke said that the insurance was one of the few things keeping her there. Indeed, this has been the case for people for many years, because insurance has always been more affordable when we get it from our employers.
This kept people in jobs they hated, and jobs that didn’t work well with their lives, out of fear of losing their insurance. People who would rather drop to part-time so they could take care of children or ailing family members would stay in full-time jobs for the insurance. People who were stuck in dead-end jobs couldn’t leave, because they didn’t know if they’d find good insurance at a new company. People who might have wanted to go freelance, or start their own business, couldn’t pursue those dreams because they didn’t know how they would afford health insurance.
What the ACA has done is reduce what’s known as “job lock,” which is the inability of someone to voluntarily terminate their employment because of health insurance. The National Republican Congressional Committee doesn’t like this, though. During Florida’s special election, between Democrat Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly, Alex Sink said, according to the Washington Post:
“Over the years, particularly the past five six years when we’ve been in this horrible economic environment, I’ve had so many people express to me, ‘Boy Alex, I’d love to start a business or I’d love to change jobs, but I can’t because I’ve got good health insurance at my workplace now. I’m stuck in a dead-end job and I’m not very happy in it but I have to stay here.’ That’s what [the CBO report talking about job loss from the ACA] referenced more: people having the ability to have more freedom and more choice in their life. Even maybe some people who would rather work maybe part time and not be a full time worker so they can do other things with their life. So actually, it’s kind of an exciting prospect.”
Republicans, of course, tried to take Sink’s remarks and say that she was happy Obamacare would make Americans work less, and be more dependent on government. The CBO report in question did, actually, refer to people choosing to work less for various reasons. What Ms. O’Rourke’s story evidences is that people also feel more free to pursue career paths that are more suited to them and their lives. O’Rourke is now a labor organizer, finishing up a college degree in labor studies, and plans to open a worker center in Indianapolis. Without Obamacare, she would not have been able to do any of this.
So this is yet another way that Obamacare works for the American people. No longer will we have to stick to jobs that don’t work well for us, that we hate, just because of insurance, and no longer do we have to fear that we’ll be left in the cold if our employers suddenly decide to scrap health insurance policies for certain groups of employees (particularly part-timers, who are already likely to be working more than one job).