According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, the Affordable Care Act, often known as “Obamacare,” can help to free us from less than ideal jobs. How? In many cases, the split between health coverage and employment helped people move on from jobs they had gotten more or less stuck in not because they enjoyed the job, but because it was one of the few ways they could receive health insurance.
An example of someone the system has helped includes Melissa O’Rourke. Last year, Trader Joe’s, a large national grocery chain, announced that it would no longer be offering health insurance for part-time workers. At first, O’Rourke was upset by the change. But she had been working for the company seven years longer than she intended to, since leaving would have meant losing insurance she needed to cover a pre-existing condition.
The insurance decoupling meant that O’Rourke could finally leave Trader Joe’s and the “job lock” that had kept her there. Now, she has a better job, and under the Affordable Care Act pays less than $27 per month for her insurance premium, compared to $70 under her previous coverage. The only difference between the two is that her new plan doesn’t include either dental or vision. Dental coverage helps patients to receive care such as dental implants, and bi-yearly checkups.
“In most cases, whatever an employer did or didn’t do, these exchange-based plans will be a better deal than what these employees had available to them,” says Bryce Williams, who works at a human resources consultancy firm. Many people are also receiving subsidies or free coverage under Medicaid’s expansion for low-income adults.
While some claim that Trader Joe’s made the change in order to give their employees a leg up, others, like O’Rourke, see it as ultimately a self-serving movement. O’Rourke notes that many employees were having difficulty meeting Trader Joe’s new 30-hour-a-week threshold for staying on company health plans. “I definitely think they did use it as an excuse, and it’s benefiting their bottom line much more than workers’,” she says.
Either way, the Affordable Care Act has been overall helping to raise the bar of healthcare offerings. New data just released by the Commonwealth Fund indicates that the U.S. has the least affordable healthcare system, and provides the worst quality healthcare, when compared to 11 similar industrialized nations.