Publication Date



[Excerpt] The majority of Americans—about 55 percent in 2010—rely on employer-sponsored health care coverage, which is largely subsidized by most employers and thus less costly to employees than coverage purchased by individuals on their own. Although a valued employee benefit, many believe that having health coverage tied to employment can influence workers to stay in jobs they might otherwise leave, a phenomenon generally known as “job lock.” The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), enacted in 2010, includes provisions that are designed to increase the accessibility and affordability of health coverage, particularly for individuals with preexisting health conditions. PPACA implementation is phased; though some provisions went into effect during the year of enactment, many provisions are scheduled to take effect in 2014. Some suggest that one benefit of PPACA may be a decrease in the occurrence of job lock. You asked us to examine job lock and the specific ways PPACA may affect it. Accordingly, we examined two key questions:

1. What has research shown about whether and the extent to which workers stay in jobs they might otherwise leave out of fear of losing health care coverage and the impact of those decisions on the labor market?

2. What are expert views on the ability of PPACA to mitigate job lock?


Suggested Citation

United States Government Accountability Office (2011). Health care coverage: Job lock and the potential impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Washington, DC: Author.