NEW YORK — Donald Trump may cast Obamacare as a job killer. But some entrepreneurs say they couldn’t have started their businesses without it.
Obamacare has freed them from depending on employers for health insurance. Instead, they told CNNMoney they can pursue their own American Dreams and work for themselves while getting coverage through the exchanges.
The President-elect’s promise to repeal Obamacare next year has left these small business owners fearful that they will have to dismantle everything they’ve worked for and return to the corporate sector just to remain insured.
The Obama administration is also playing up Obamacare’s role in entrepreneurship as it seeks to promote the health reform law’s importance to Americans.
“We’re hearing from consumers who value the protections that [the Affordable Care Act] brings, but also about the economic freedom that the coverage has given them,” said Andy Slavitt, acting administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees Obamacare.
CNNMoney interviewed five entrepreneurs who are worried about what lies ahead:
Carren Morris spent 16 years climbing the corporate ladder in the athletic footwear industry, but she had long wanted to start a retail consulting company.
That goal was put on hold after Morris was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in 2009. The Los Angeles resident did not think she’d ever strike out on her own because health insurers wouldn’t want to cover her pre-existing condition.
Obamacare gave her the chance to become an entrepreneur. Last spring, Morris quit her job at Puma, where she oversaw its dot-com business, to set up her firm. She’s signed up for a Blue Shield plan for next year with a $467 monthly premium and no deductible.
Trump’s vow to repeal Obamacare has left Morris concerned that she’ll have to return to the corporate world just to secure health insurance. She’s now cancer-free, but she still needs regular tests and blood work to make sure her cancer doesn’t return. Though Trump has said those with pre-existing conditions would still be able to obtain coverage, the uncertainty could prove too much for Morris.
“My fear is that Donald Trump’s repeal of the Affordable Healthcare Act will crush my dreams of having my own company,” said Morris, 39.
America’s prosperity will suffer if Trump repeals Obamacare, said Donald Ferguson, a longtime tech executive. That’s because health care reform has fostered more start ups and technical innovation, which supports economic growth, he said.
After working for the likes of IBM, Microsoft, Dell and Computer Associates for more than three decades, Ferguson joined friends last year to launch seeka.tv, which hosts independent web-TV content. Married with two daughters, he said he would never have taken the plunge had he not been able to get coverage for his family on the exchange.
“The ability to take risks is what has made America great,” said Ferguson, 56, who lives in South Salem, New York. Repealing Obamacare “will stop people from taking risks. There will be a lot fewer start-ups and entrepreneurs [without] some compelling replacement.”
Ending Obamacare could be a job killer when it comes to The Cloverleaf Farm outside of Davis, California.
Emma Torbert might have to quit her position at the organic fruit farm, where she grows peaches, nectarines, strawberries, figs and melons. She founded Cloverleaf six years ago while working in agricultural research at the University of California, Davis. Last year, she joined the farm full-time and signed up for Obamacare.
Prior to Obamacare, she had applied for individual insurance, but was denied because of a mistake in her medical record. So even though she’s healthy, Torbert, 36, is concerned she won’t be able to get coverage if the health care law is dismantled. And she doesn’t want to risk being uninsured, especially when handling heavy farm equipment.
“One of the first things I thought about was ‘If Obamacare is repealed, how do I go forward without health insurance’,” Torbert said.
Depending on how Trump replaces Obamacare, Torbert, her business partner and their employee might have to find other jobs that provide coverage. They are all on Obamacare.
Donald Trump’s election may mean the end of the computer repair shop Jefferson Roberts opened eight years ago in Smyrna, Tennessee.
Roberts is diabetic and can’t risk being uninsured. A month of insulin costs $1,100.
Knowing Obama planned to reform health care, he left his job. Rejected by insurers on the individual market, he was “lucky” to get into his state’s high-risk pool for those with pre-existing conditions. When the exchange opened in 2014, he signed up for “even better insurance at a much more reasonable price, with subsidies. Finally, I was able to rest easy, knowing that I had good coverage.”
Now, he depends on his Obamacare insurance to keep him alive.
Trump’s vow to repeal the health reform law has left Roberts caught between a rock and a hard place. He doesn’t want to close the shop — to which he devotes 72 hours a week — and look for a job with benefits. But he says he can’t take the chance that Trump’s plans could leave him without coverage.
“When President Obama was elected, I finally saw that I might have the chance to run my own business,” said Roberts, 50, who worked in corporate IT for years. “I’d have to run away to save myself. I’m healthy and I’d like to stay healthy.”
Not only has Obamacare allowed Stefani Dawn and her husband, Rick Momsen, to start their own consulting firms, but it’s also lowered their monthly expenses.
Thanks to the federal subsidies, their silver Obamacare plan’s monthly premiums are less than what they paid for their employer coverage, though the deductible is higher. Their policy costs $150 a month, half the price of Momsen’s job-based plan.
That has allowed them to funnel more funds into their businesses — she consults in higher education and he specializes in mapping and information systems.
Dawn, a breast cancer survivor who has an autoimmune disorder, is concerned that even if Trump retains coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, it will be pricier.
“It doesn’t help if we have to pay $1,000 or more when we are trying to build a business and put money into that,” said Dawn, 46, a former university administrator who lives in Ogden, Utah, with her husband and teenage son.
By Tami Luhby