The ACA Is Helping Workers

The ACA Is Helping Workers

Two months ago, I argued that the Affordable Care Act isn't forcing firms to cut hours. Rather, the law gives workers the ability to pursue part-time employment if they so desire -- an improvement over the previous system, in which workers had to be full-time in order to receive health insurance. As I explained:

If an employee is working part-time and would like to work full-time, his or her status as part-time is a negative: that employee would like to work more, but hasn't been given the opportunity to do so. However, if an employee is voluntarily working part-time, it means that he or she is making an active decision to pursue part-time employment. Since health insurance was previously linked to a worker's status as a full-time employee, many Americans worked full-time simply to receive health insurance benefits; this was true even for workers who otherwise would have preferred to work part-time. Thanks to the ACA, workers no longer have to be employed full-time in order to receive insurance, so, not surprisingly, voluntary part-time employment is up.

Charles Gaba's latest figures on health-insurance enrollment indicate that about 32 million Americans will be covered by the Affordable Care Act in 2015, up about 10 million from last April. Given that ACA insurance coverage increased in 2015 but did so to a lesser degree than in 2014, we'd expect voluntary part-time employment to have gone up over the last two months, but not to the same degree as we saw in 2014. By comparison, if the ACA's critics are correct, we'd expect involuntary part-time to have increased as firms cut workers' hours.

So, let's check and see who was right:

In the case of voluntary part-time employment, the slipper fits. Voluntary part-time employment shot up between April and December of 2014, then increased moderately between December 2014 and February 2015. By comparison, involuntary part-time employment fell over 11 percent between April 2014 and February 2015.

What's more, the increase in voluntary part-time employment is really a new phenomenon. Between February 2012 and February 2013, voluntary part-time employment increased by about 110,000 workers; between February 2013 and February 2014, it increased by 132,000. Yet between February 2014 and February 2015, voluntary part-time employment went up by over 750,000. This huge jump suggests that the ACA is the cause of these positive changes in the labor market.

Overall, it's clear that the ACA's critics were wrong, and its supporters were right. The ACA is helping workers. Anyone who claims otherwise simply hasn't bothered to check their facts.

Nicholas Buffie is a junior research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

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