The most often repeated attack on the Affordable Care Act is that the law is a "job killer"—an anti-business spool of red tape that will strangle free enterprise from coast to coast.
In fact, one of the biggest obstacles that entrepreneurs face when starting a new business is affording health insurance. Leaving a job where you have coverage to do your own thing has been very costly—since individuals have tended to face the highest premiums in a deeply dysfunctional insurance market.
Now, thanks to Obamacare, that is going to change. Yesterday, New York officials announced dramatically more affordable health insurance options for individuals. According to the New York Times:
State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower.
Supporters of the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, credited the drop in rates to the online purchasing exchanges the law created, which they say are spurring competition among insurers that are anticipating an influx of new customers. The law requires that an exchange be started in every state.
Did you get that last part? Obamacare, a supposed dagger at the heart of American capitalism, is actually forcing markets to operate more efficiently and do what they are supposed to do: spur better deals for consumers through competition.
More choices and transparency aren't the only factors that will bring down prices. Healthy younger people who now go without insurance, because it's too costly, are expected to enter the market in large numbers thanks to rising affordability and the individual mandate. This promises to reverse the current downward spiral in which younger people drop out of the insurance market as prices rise—leaving insurers covering a less healthy pool, which in turn pushes prices higher and leads more healthy people to drop expensive coverage.
All this is a big, big deal for entrepreneurs—or anyone who wants to break free of the 9-to-5 world. And existing small businesses also stand to benefit, since the exchanges will make it easier for them to shop for insurance plans and lower the price of those plans. Oh, and don't forget the tax credits that small businesses get under the ACA.
Obamacare remains a pale alternative to the universal health systems that most other advanced countries have that deliver great care for a much smaller share of national wealth. But the ways the law will benefit individuals and small business underscores a crucial point about social insurance: These programs advance personal freedom by giving people more choices in life.
Conservatives have depicted the Affordable Care Act as the greatest blow to freedom in decades—when, in fact, the lived experience of this law is likely to be exactly the opposite.