How Health Reform Can Help End Job Lock

Texan Sally Jo Hahn is self-employed and has a history of health concerns. Finding coverage on the private insurance market has been nearly impossible. Even the state’s high-risk pool, which would have cost thousands of dollars, kept her from joining for a time. Under the Affordable Care Act Sally Jo’s choices—and those of many other Americans—will improve greatly.

Much of the American Dream is based on our country’s historic facilitation of self-made individuals who work hard to establish their own businesses and pave their own way. Our openness to self-started businesses is something that Americans are not only known for but intensely proud of.

Self-employment offers opportunity for unique entrepreneurship and the optimal utilization of individuals’ experience. It also serves as an avenue for increased job creation. But changing jobs—finding the right fit in a position that aligns with one’s interests—is another vital piece of any dynamic economy. People need to be able to go out and do what they’re made to do.

Today, however, Americans are often deterred from starting their own businesses or changing jobs, for fear of losing the security that comes with the job they have. Concern over being denied insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions, being charged higher premiums, or losing access to a trusted provider keeps workers in “job lock,” continuing to work in jobs they would otherwise leave—in order to maintain health coverage.

As we’ve noted before, research from the Urban Institute and Georgetown University shows health care reform can help alleviate job lock and is likely to lead to 124,000 Texans striking out on their own. Beginning in 2014, no applicant for non-group coverage may be turned down for assessed risk or health status. All health insurance policies must provide a minimum level of coverage that includes 10 Essential Health Benefits, mandating coverage in areas such as maternity and newborn care, mental health, pediatric care, and general preventative, wellness services.

New reform under the ACA offers Texans and many other Americans the opportunity to venture out on their own and try something new. Workers will now feel more secure starting new endeavors that cater to their unique skillsets and experience, without the worry and concern that they cannot access quality, affordable health care for themselves and their families.

Written by: Hannah Guernsey, Children's Defense Fund - Texas