Obamacare Is Good for Older Workers Too

In a previous post, we pointed out that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was providing young parents with the option to work part-time by severing the link between employment and health care insurance. Since workers can now obtain insurance through the exchanges, many parents now have the option to work part-time rather than full-time so they can spend more time with their kids. This showed up in a sharp increase between 2013 and 2104 in the number of young parents who were voluntarily working part-time.

It is reasonable to expect that the ACA would have other beneficial effects on the labor market. It turns out that there was also a substantial increase in the voluntary part-time employment of older pre-Medicare age workers. Table 1 shows the change between 2013 and 2014 in the number of people voluntarily working part-time in the cohort from age 55–59 and the cohort from age 60–64.

Voluntary Part-time Employment 2013–2014

For the cohort from age 55–59, the percentage of workers choosing to work part-time rose by 4.7 percent between 2013 and 2014. This compares to 2.9 percent for the workforce as a whole. For this age cohort, there was little difference between the impact on men and women.

Among the oldest group of pre-Medicare age workers, the impact was considerably larger, with an increase in the number of people opting to work part-time of 5.1 percent. Among this group, there was a large gap between the impact on women and men, with the number of woman working part-time rising by 6.3 percent compared to an increase of just 2.7 percent among men.

It is not surprising that the ACA would have a large impact on the work patterns of older workers. Many of these workers have serious health conditions, or a spouse with serious health conditions, which would have made it difficult or impossible to get insurance in the individual market before the ACA. For these workers, the ability to get insurance through the exchanges meant that they were no longer tied to a full-time job that they may have disliked or found difficult to perform. This new freedom for workers is a very important, if underappreciated, benefit of the ACA.

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