For these two women, access to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act gives them the freedom to pursue their career goals.
Phoebe Agena had a dream: to become a massage therapist. She graduated from massage school in 2009, but wasn’t able to find a job with benefits. So she began working part-time as a massage therapist while pulling enough shifts at Starbucks to qualify for employer-provided health insurance. It wasn’t ideal, but she was grateful to have coverage — especially after a six-month period when her hours at Starbucks dipped below the threshold to qualify for benefits.
It was a scary time, not having any backup plans. My mom is a 20-year cancer survivor and I had eye surgery in 2007 for a condition that, if left untreated, could lead to blindness. I’m also a bike commuter in Seattle, which means there’s a good chance I could get hit by a car. What do you do when that happens? I’m in good health but the unknown is frightening.
Fortunately, Phoebe was able to work out an arrangement with her massage therapy job so she could work enough hours at Starbucks to qualify for insurance again. She’s grateful everyone was so understanding.
“I wasn’t the only person working at Starbucks who was doing something else on the side,” she says. “They’re a great company but, for most people, working there isn’t their true passion.”
When health insurance became available at HealthCare.gov under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, Phoebe saw an opportunity. She purchased her own coverage there starting in 2015 so she could quit her job at Starbucks and pursue her dream of starting her own massage therapy business.
Before the ACA, private insurance was out of reach for me. Once I didn’t have to worry about getting coverage, I could leave my job at Starbucks and start working more days as a massage therapist. It’s made it possible for me to build my practice and increase my business.
S.F. has a similar story. After escaping a domestic violence situation with her two children, she had to find work outside the home for the first time. S.F. (who asked me to use only her initials) started a career as a freelance editor and it’s turned out to be a perfect way to balance being a single mom and providing for her family. Her two kids are still covered under their father’s health insurance, but S.F. didn’t have any coverage once her divorce was final.
She turned to HealthCare.gov, where she was able to find a plan she could afford. Like Phoebe, she qualified for tax credits that reduce the cost of coverage. Because she has coverage, she can afford to see the doctor when she needs to, and just got her annual flu shot.
Without insurance, there’s a fear of what happens if you get really sick or find out you have cancer or are hit by a bus. It’s the kind of thing that will bankrupt you if you don’t have insurance. And I want to stay healthy for my girls — I’m the only one looking out for them.
Both of these entrepreneurs worry about what might happen if Donald Trump and Congress make good on their promises to repeal or otherwise dismantle the ACA. They don’t want to be forced to go without health insurance — and they also see the economic impact of denying coverage to millions of Americans like them who are now covered thanks to Obamacare.
“If you take away health insurance for people who run their own business, you’re stifling the economy,” S.F. says. “If you want America to be great, you’ve got to let people have health insurance so they can innovate instead of toeing the line. The humanitarian aspect doesn’t seem to get through to them, so we have to appeal to the financial aspect.”
Phoebe feels much the same way.
I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. And I also think it’s the American way to be an entrepreneur. Health insurance is one of those things it’s hard to go without, and it’s really detrimental to the foundation of who we are as a country if people are being tied to jobs simply because they need health insurance.
As a country, we value entrepreneurs so much. Is there anything more American than starting and running your own company? It’s the American way, the American spirit, and by not having that added worry and stress about having health insurance, we can expand who we are as Americans.
Donald Trump prides himself on his business acumen, so maybe this message will sink in for him. Do you have a story about how Obamacare helped you start a business or pursue a dream? Tell us about it HERE if you’d like to be considered for a future post.
Open enrollment for 2017 insurance continues through January 31, 2017. You must enroll by December 15, 2016, for coverage to begin January 1, 2017. Get covered today at HealthCare.gov.
[Photo courtesy of Phoebe Agena.]