Are Older Nontraditional Workers Able to Find Health and Retirement Coverage?



In contrast to traditional employment, where employers provide health and retirement benefits, workers in nontraditional jobs have to seek out other options for health insurance coverage and retirement saving. How successful are they at finding alternatives? This study uses the Health and Retirement Study to examine older workers ages 50-64, who are both the largest cohort of workers in nontraditional jobs, and probably the group most in need of consistent health coverage and the ability to save for their imminent retirement. The study finds that about one-third of older workers in nontraditional jobs are uninsured, with the majority finding coverage through a spouse’s employer or a past employer of their own. The Affordable Care Act has also helped these workers find coverage, most often through Medicaid; the study finds that workers in nontraditional employment in states that expanded Medicaid saw greater increases in coverage (especially public coverage) than similar workers in non-expansion states. While policy reform has helped increase health insurance coverage, workers in nontraditional jobs are largely left without convenient, tax-deferred retirement saving options, in part because their spouses in traditional employment do not tend to save more to compensate. These results suggest that policies such as auto-IRA plans may be especially useful to workers in nontraditional employment.