The good news about the affordable care act is that millions more people will have access to affordable health care. But the bad news is….well, the bad news isn’t so bad. This week media and some conservatives seized on a GAO report showing Americans will work less under the affordable care act. Some ACA critics attacked the report as proof the ACA is causing job loss. But the report actually estimates that people will work less because they will choose to supply less labor. Why? Because they will now have the choice to do so – without the threat of lost healthcare coverage. Another benefit described by Paul Krugman in a recent NY Times column – a reduced labor supply will actually lead to higher wages.
As a lawyer representing and counseling employees, I observe every day how health care dependence has historically limited career choices – the entrepreneur who can’t quit the day job and take a risk because his family depends on his job for insurance, the worker who works through medical illness just so she can keep basic insurance – and making herself sicker along the way. The GAO estimates are welcome news, because they mean that the ACA may actually change the culture of job driven health care. Americans may decide to work less. I’m OK with that.