Though the future of the Affordable Care Act is unclear, there is one thing about the health reform law that is clear: Having access to affordable healthcare coverage that cannot be denied because of pre-existing conditions enables a more mobile and flexible workforce.
A number of aspects of the ACA have opened up more possibilities for how Americans choose to work. More options for employees can mean that employers have less control over their workforce — but they can benefit, too. For this reason, a repeal of the ACA could threaten workforce mobility.
Consider the following changes the ACA has brought to employment. Before the ACA, some employees who wanted to retire before they were eligible for Medicare stayed in a job just for healthcare. Others, interested in becoming consultants, freelancers or entrepreneurs, also didn’t take the plunge because the risk of having inadequate healthcare coverage or being denied coverage was too great. The same was true for employees who wanted to work part-time or on a seasonal basis.
Some career-minded, full-time employees were stymied as well. With pre-Medicare eligible employees delaying retirement, younger workers were blocked from advancement by a logjam of older workers hanging on. Some of the younger workers were forced to move out in order to move up.
Bottom line, American workers were shackled by “job lock.” The ACA removed a key constraint by making affordable healthcare available outside of full-time employment with a benefits-providing organization. This gave people many more options around retirement and work.