Health Insurance

Millions of Americans have quit their jobs. Is Obamacare helping them?

Why Obamacare is struggling to meet Great Resignation need
Why Obamacare is struggling to meet Great Resignation need

Workers are quitting their jobs in record numbers – part of what is now called The Great Resignation. Around 4 million workers have quit each month between July and November 2021.

Erica Leman had maintained a side hustle as a wedding photographer for 12 years. Like millions of other Americans, Leman, who was working in higher education, took the pandemic as a sign to make a career change.

"We had one pandemic, what's the chances of it happening again, during my lifetime?" Leman said. "The worst that could happen is that I go back to a job. That's not the end of the world."

American workers who are becoming their own bosses may be gaining new financial freedom, but they're losing a big advantage: health insurance benefits. More than 54% of Americans had insurance through their employer in 2020, according to U.S. Census data.

One in three insured workers would consider leaving jobs if health insurance weren't a factor, according to Policygenius' November 2021 Health Insurance Literacy Survey. "The Great Resignation might be even greater if it weren't for the way our health insurance system is constituted," said Myles Ma, senior managing editor at Policygenius.

That anxiety was certainly true for Leman. "One of the reasons that I almost never considered leaving a staff position until recently was because of health insurance," she said.

Many Americans who need health insurance turn to the Obamacare marketplace to find a plan, and amid the recent surge in resignations, the Biden administration announced that sign ups hit an all-time high in December 2021.

But some Americans find the exchanges difficult to navigate and say they struggled to find a suitable plan at a price they could afford.

Seventy-one percent of uninsured Americans who decided not to get coverage either from a private insurer or through the marketplace said they didn't end up buying a plan because it was too expensive, according to a 2020 survey by the Commonwealth Fund.

Leman also turned to the marketplace to find a plan but realized none of the offerings fit her needs. "There were so many options, and all of them seem just kind of like a lot of money for not a lot of support," she said.

"There are significant limitations in marketplace plan coverage that you can't easily see," said Karen Pollitz, senior fellow for health reform and private insurance at Kaiser Family Foundation. "The coverage [may be] meaningfully different from what you may have been used to from your job."

While the pandemic may have helped spur the Great Resignation, it also brought about new legislation that could make an insurance policy from the marketplace more affordable for most Americans. But only 30% of people are aware that you can get financial aid to pay for their plans.

Watch the video above to learn whether Obamacare can work for this influx of uninsured Americans and how the Great Resignation may change health care coverage in the U.S.