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Jobs of the Future
Freelancing and the ACA

As of 2013, nearly 15 percent of the U.S. labor force was self-employed, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—a jump up of 1.2 percent from the year before. This AP piece offers a succinct glimpse at the new reality:

For workers, it’s become easier and less risky to go solo. Affordable health insurance plans, which kept many workers shackled to traditional jobs, are more accessible because of the Affordable Care Act. And companies are increasingly open to hiring freelancers and independent contractors. Many say independent workers bring fresh ideas without the long-term commitment.

An industry dedicated to serving the companies that offer freelance and contract work and the people who fill those openings is growing. Gigs can be found at a number of websites, such as Upwork.com and Freelancer.com, or through hiring services that connect professional freelancers and companies. And companies that provide shared rented office space, such as WeWork, lets freelancers mingle with fellow contractors.

The ACA, of course, is hardly living up to the first “A” in its name, and premiums are likely to go up even more this year. But the idea that individual plans should be made both widely available and more affordable will need to be preserved as the American health care system goes through the inevitable overhauls that lie ahead.

Freelancing isn’t for everybody—especially with the current education system geared to produce stable and contented employees who sit at their desks, work to the bell, and produce on the same timetable as everyone else. But the labor market is changing, and we must begin to gear our institutions and our culture towards promoting, celebrating, and rewarding creative freelancers.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    One of the biggest victories of the ACA concept is exactly what you have described. To be entrepreneurial, a person aspiring to self-employment no longer needs a corporate or union or government employer’s group plan to spread his medical risk and that of his family among others—–as group participants have always done—–to actually insure against medical disaster. The underwriting is designed for the citizens, not for the insurers. No, it’s not cheap. But you aren’t shut out of going on your own just because you are shackled to your prior participation in a group plan.

    If you want individuals to be able to buy coverage, don’t kill the other pieces of the ACA which make it possible for insurers to sell you something decent. Those “other pieces” are strong policy standards (for you) and societal pressure to get everybody buying something (for them).

  • Kevin

    How much of this freelance work is by people who would really rather have full time work but can’t find it? A lot of it seems to be a sort of hidden underemployment, or alternatively a way for a second wage earner in a household to work part time.

    Also, most people I know who choose freelance work long term are married to someone with a job that provides benefits (aka health insurance). I don’t see ACA as influencing this much.

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