The Kansas City area prides itself on being one of the most entrepreneurial regions in the country. Our civic, political, business and philanthropic leaders have all prioritized innovation, technology and new business ideas as key to creating good jobs and a strong economy to power our area’s present and future success.
As the wife of a local entrepreneur, I’m troubled that the healthcare bill being advanced in Congress threatens the ability of smart people with good ideas to pursue them. Taking away the guarantee of affordable, quality, comprehensive health care coverage will make starting a business too risky for many sensible entrepreneurs.
My husband decided to leave his stable job as an attorney at a big firm about a year after the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” was signed into law.
He had big ideas and we wanted to take the chance. We had a number of qualms, but none of them was the threat of medical bankruptcy or an inability to buy health insurance, because the ACA fixed that.
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I’d followed the debate on the ACA closely, hearing the horror stories of families bankrupted by huge medical debt and, knowing that these issues had been addressed, felt able to say “yes.”
He might be risking his career, but we wouldn’t risk our family’s health or our entire future on a surprise illness or a car accident that could generate $100,000 in medical bills.
I’d always known I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom to my children. For us, that meant we would have to buy health insurance in the “individual insurance market” for people who need health insurance but don’t get it through their employer.
I was especially attuned to the provisions of the ACA designed to help mothers.
Again, the horror stories echoed in my brain.
Before the ACA, the typical individual insurance policy didn’t cover maternity care, or insurance companies charged women expecting children — or even thinking about having children — much higher premiums.
I didn’t have to worry that if our child were to be born early or have extraordinary needs, an insurance policy’s lifetime cap could be exceeded before leaving the hospital.
Unable to obtain a policy in Kansas that covered maternity expenses, we timed our second child’s birth to align with all of the new protections of the ACA. By the time he was born, our insurance policy covered maternity-related expenses and we could focus on keeping our family healthy and well not worrying that my pregnancy could bankrupt us.
The AHCA, the bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and now under consideration in the Senate, would end many of these protections. Mothers delivering children could expect to pay $17,000 more per year.
Insurance would be harder to buy, making starting a business that much harder.
There are enough obstacles already to starting a new business. No one should have to choose between starting a business or starting a family.
As my senator, Jerry Moran, states on his own website “The story of America is really a story of entrepreneurs – individuals who risked their livelihoods to pursue their dreams.”
Risking our livelihood is risk enough. Entrepreneurs shouldn’t be asked to risk their family’s lives too.
Melissa Bez Cheatham is a mother, community volunteer and consultant in Overland Park.