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Obamacare Helped Me Realize My Entrepreneurial Dreams

Julia Taylor-Brown is the owner of teebsie, a natural candy company. She is also a freelance marketer, designer, illustrator and creative consultant living in Los Angeles.

One of the many things that could be said about the highly secretive Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is that the GOP has no interest in outside input on its legislative proposal. If these lawmakers asked me, however, I would gladly explain that without the current healthcare law this country could lose a whole generation of entrepreneurs — people just like me who would not have started their own businesses without the ACA.  

My career began in the mailroom of a management agency/production company in Los Angeles, where I quickly worked my way up to become the assistant to a division president. Next, I oversaw the marketing and creative endeavors for a private members’ club, and later worked for the company nationally. I have since worked with a range of well-known, large companies in both entertainment and hospitality.

Despite my career success I wasn’t happy, and I knew the only way to change that was to go into business for myself. But I had a big problem: two pre-existing conditions, which meant I could not afford to buy my own health insurance.

I battle depression and a thyroid disorder, both of which require medication. Before the ACA, an insurance company told me that I would have to go seven years without medication or treatment in order to be deemed “insurable” under a “non-catastrophic” plan. Since it wasn’t medically advisable for me to skip doses for seven years, I was tied to a job in order to maintain my health.

Then the ACA was enacted and I was able to become an entrepreneur because quality, affordable healthcare was finally within my reach. At that point I was 29 years old; had the ACA been in place earlier, I probably would have gone out on my own at 22.

Once I was able to go out on my own, I started a freelance design, marketing, illustration and creative consulting business and also started a candy company called teebsie in which I sell candies and popsicles made from real, organic fruit juices.

Given what the ACA helped me achieve, I was deeply disappointed when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which would repeal and replace the ACA. I’m particularly upset by the fact that the AHCA would lessen protections for those with pre-existing conditions and allocate $8 billion for high-risk pools, which is much too little to ensure that anyone with pre-existing conditions will be able to afford the increasing premiums brought on by the AHCA. As a result, the plan would put healthcare coverage out of reach for aspiring entrepreneurs hoping to go out on their own because they can’t afford health insurance.

Many small businesses recognize that the AHCA would be a major blow to entrepreneurship, which may be one reason they support the ACA over the AHCA by a 2:1 ratio, according to Small Business Majority’s scientific opinion polling. The poll also found that nearly 6 in 10 small businesses support the ACA after learning more about its provisions.

Part of the problem surrounding the debate over ACA repeal is that many people just do not understand how beneficial the healthcare law is, particularly for entrepreneurs. A report released in January by the U.S. Treasury Department and the Department of Health and Human Services found one in five participants in the ACA-created healthcare marketplaces nationwide in 2014 were small business owners, self-employed or both. In California, the number of small business owners and/or self-employed entrepreneurs who participated in the marketplace amounted to nearly 500,000 people.

While I will admit that the ACA is not without flaws, repealing it would be a disaster. I have a large network of friends, which includes other small business owners and freelancers, who have been able to thrive thanks to the ACA. Without the healthcare law, the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs may vanish — along with a segment of our economy.

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