How Obamacare Will Help Low-Wage Workers Afford Their Health Coverage

The Commonwealth Fund is out with a new study that highlights how Obamacare will help the low-income wage earners — who typically have significantly less access to health insurance than their higher-paid co-workers, or the employees who work in larger firms — afford the critical health coverage they need.

Contrary to unfounded conservative hysteria about the health reform law’s negative impact on the economy, Obamacare actually lowers health care spending in small firms while giving employers a viable avenue for insuring their employees. And the Commonwealth report further illustrates Obamacare’s potential to greatly reduce the percentage of low-wage workers going without health coverage. Currently, over half of workers making less than $15 per hour at businesses with less than 50 employees are either currently uninsured or have been uninsured in the past several years:

These workers do not qualify for employer-sponsored health insurance — either because their employer does not offer health benefits or because they work part-time — and although their hourly wages surpass current Medicaid eligibility thresholds, they don’t make enough to afford insurance on the private market. This dynamic leaves low-wage workers both uninsured and unable to afford their essential medical costs. Luckily, the study finds that Obamacare provisions will go a long way toward ensuring low-wage workers have affordable coverage, particularly thanks to the incentives that encourage small businesses to provide their employees with coverage and the Medicaid expansion to cover more low-income Americans who were previously above the income threshold.

The report concludes that by 2014, Obamacare’s statewide exchanges will provide subsidized insurance in one form or another to a full 50 percent of the 27.6 million American workers who are currently uninsured. The Medicaid expansion — if GOP governors choose to participate it in it rather than continuing to deny coverage to their low-income constituents — will provide insurance to an additional 37 percent of uninsured workers.