A report came out recently with major implications for the future of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. The conclusion: Even if you get health insurance from your employer right now, it's increasingly likely that won't be the case in 10 years.
Most voters don't have much skin in the game when it comes to Obamacare. While the program may have provided coverage for 12 million Americans -- an impressive-sounding number -- that's just 3.7% of the American population. In 2016, half of all Americans received insurance via their employer, while Medicaid and Medicare provided another third with coverage.
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However, freelance payment and jobs site Upwork reports that by the year 2027, there will likely be more freelancers than traditional full-time employees in the U.S. That means the majority of American workers could soon be without employer-provided healthcare.
That realization should inform lawmakers' approach to potentially repealing and replacing Obamacare -- and make them reconsider sabotaging the program in the meantime. Unfortunately, few have noticed.
Below are three charts that will give you the view from 30,000 feet and help you understand why you have a vested interest in the fate of Obamacare. Your skin -- or that of your children and grandchildren -- could soon be in this game.
The rise of the freelance economy
Upwork estimates that 57.3 million Americans are currently freelancers -- workers who aren't tied to one single company and are free to take assignments from clients on a project-by-project basis. More traditional employees might scoff at the idea of freelancing, but millennials don't: Almost half of them currently freelance.
While it may seem risky to "go it alone," traditional employment is often are far more precarious. Freelancers can have many different employers, so losing one isn't a deathblow to their cash flow or careers. Meanwhile, traditional employees may lose their sole source of income simply because their boss put them in the crosshairs.
That, plus the emerging technologies that help make freelancing possible, helps explain why Upwork expects freelancers to outnumber non-freelancers in America by 2027.
It's important to note that not all of these freelancers are "full time" -- as in, relying on freelance work for all of their income. In fact, only 29% of freelancers -- that's 16.6 million Americans -- work full-time. The rest are moon-lighters, part-time independent contractors, and even stay-at-home parents.
But as the benefits of freelancing become more well-known, and as older workers are replaced with millennials who are more comfortable telecommuting from a personal computer, I would expect this percentage to increase markedly.
Top concern: affordable healthcare
The top concern among full-time freelancers is how to access affordable healthcare. Last year, 85% of America's full-time freelancers -- roughly 14.1 million Americans -- had health insurance. Here's how they obtained it:
We also need to recognize that any changes made to Obamacare could easily affect how Medicaid and Medicare are carried out. In many states, the onset of Obamacare drastically changed the number of people eligible to participate in Medicaid. Additionally, as more Americans start freelancing, there will be more dual-income households in which both partners freelance, which means fewer households will have access to employer-sponsored health plans. In all, it could be argued that up to 74% of this growing population could be directly affected by changes to Obamacare.
Healthcare will play a huge role in political affiliation
The shifts taking place right now in the American economy have enormous political implications. This is why I find it so surprising that the fate of freelancers has received almost no attention from the talking heads.
For the politicians reading this article, the final question should say it all.
Right now, full-time freelancers are still a small group. But they're growing at such a rate that politicians will ignore them at their own peril. Just as importantly, it's becoming increasingly likely that you will be freelancing for a living within a decade. And chances are, you'll want affordable access to healthcare.
I'm not advocating for or against Obamacare per se. I'm encouraging you to look beyond the headlines and consider the real-world implications of changes in the current law for your family. Chances are, it will affect you more than you think, and sooner than you believe.
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