Eclectalife — January 9, 2009 at 7:07 pm

US Healthcare Policy Squelches Entrepreneurship


Watching the phenomenal success of my wife’s Photo Mosaic Poster of Barack Obama has me thinking a LOT these days about the nature of entrepreneurship and how it truly is a significant engine of economic prosperity in this country. Small start-up companies, single-owner businesses and other fledgling enterprises, when they are successful, spread their success like ripples in a pond. While many don’t make it through their first year of existence, the ones that do flourish have the potential to provide a livelihood for large numbers of people as they grow and expand.

The healthcare policy of the United States almost ensures that a great percentage of potentially viable start-up businesses never see the light of day, preventing our economy from seeing the important fruits of their existence.

How important is a single good idea to the economic welfare of our country? It can be phenomenal. Take the example of the iPod. This little transforming gizmo clearly has provided great wealth for Apple. But look how far beyond Apple the effect of the iPod has reached. Hundreds of companies have come into being to supply iPod-related products and services. Existing businesses have reshaped their goods and services to incorporate the iPod and what it has to offer, swelling their bottom line. Even literature and music have benefitted giving new authors, musicians and bands opportunities they never would have had otherwise. All of this increases the wealth of our country and all because of a good idea that turned into the iPod.

In my wife’s situation, she has been given a break that could mean a great deal in terms of her start-up photography business, Revolutionary Views. Not only are others profiting from her poster as she brings on distributors and retail stores to help her sell it, she may eventually be able to grow her company and hire others. The wealth-generating potential of small start-up businesses can not be denied. Just like monolithic companies like Apple started small (Dell computers started in the dorm room of Michael Dell at the University of Texas at Austin, e.g.), some percentage of new small businesses will inevidibly grow into large successful American corporations paying taxes, hiring people and creating wealth.

But our healthcare policy in this country forces people to rely on their job for healthcare insurance or face gigantic costs to insure themselves or, if they are truly unlucky, pay cash for healthcare directly. My wife’s brother recently lost his job at a non-profit and she has other siblings that have an interest in starting a business together. But without healthcare, how can they dare take that chance? They have children to raise, mortgages to pay and food must be put on the table. There’s no possible way to walk away from the tens of thousands of dollars worth of healthcare insurance they receive from their employers. In fact, without me remaining employed at my current job, there is no way my wife’s business could ever have taken off, if she would have even been able to start it in the first place.

On the other hand, if we had a single-payer healthcare system or some other way of delivering healthcare (and probably education for our children as well) that doesn’t put such an onerous financial burden on individuals, far more talented, clever and hard-working individuals would be able to take the chance and start a new company based on a good idea.

How many people with good ideas never make it to the entrepreneur stage? Hard to say but I would be willing to bet the increase in new start-ups would increase by double-digit percentages if people were freed from the burden of remaining in their current jobs for the simple reason that it provides them with medical insurance.

So when Barack Obama says that reform of our nation’s healthcare system is a significant component of his economic plan, I believe him. I’ve seen it first hand. I eagerly await the day when this country joins other progressive nations and implements some form of single-payer medical care. In fact, on that day, I may just quit my job and work for my wife’s company.

Or better yet, I might just start one of my own.

I’m just sayin’…