The Interconnected Relationships of Health Insurance, Health, and Labor Market Outcomes

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has greatly increased the proportion of non-elderly Americans with health insurance. One justification for the ACA is that improving individuals’ access to health insurance would improve their health outcomes, mostly by increasing the probability that they have a regular source of care. Another is that increasing the availability of health insurance outside of employment reduces the “job lock” that ties poorly matched workers to their jobs only because they want to maintain coverage. This study reviews the literature on the relationships between health insurance and health, between health and work, and between health insurance and labor market outcomes directly. The review uses evidence from recent policy expansions in Oregon and Massachusetts, and among Social Security disability beneficiaries and Medicare enrollees, to evaluate the extent to which expansions have the expected effects on labor market outcomes, indirectly and directly.