September 20, 2009
Public forum: What health care reform means for entrepreneurs
If you're a past or present employee who thinks the health insurance woes of the self-employed aren't your concern, you're wrong. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses make up 99.7 percent of all employers and hire more than half all private sector employees. In 2006, companies with fewer than 20 people on staff employed 21.6 million Americans.
In other words, today's kitchen table entrepreneur could very well be your employer two, five, or ten years down the line.
By now we've all heard the scary health insurance statistics: 46 million Americans uninsured, 25 million more underinsured, medical bills being the leading cause of bankruptcy in this country, the uninsured being far more likely to die, and so on.
But what you may not know is that a July study conducted by The Commonwealth Fund found that more than half of Americans polled who have an individual health insurance policy (as opposed to an employer's group plan) pay monthly premiums and out-of-pocket medical costs totaling at least 10 percent of their income.
In addition, nearly three-quarters of those polled who looked into buying their own health care coverage in the past three years didn't go through with it. According to The Commonwealth Fund, the pricy premiums scared them away.
I've gassed on before about the lengths the self-employed sometimes go to in order to score some of that almighty, far-more-comprehensive group plan coverage. (Among the more unusual strategies: Premature nuptials and low-paid part-time jobs.)
In New York, the Freelancers Union has been successful in both forming its own group insurance plan and convincing Governor Paterson to pass a law giving New York's independent workers access to group-rate health insurance. Unfortunately, the Freelancers Union has yet to offer its souped-up insurance plan to independent workers in Washington state.
But Puget Sound independents are organizing in other ways: Biznik, the locally founded social networking site for the self-employed, surveyed its members this month and found that nearly one in five of them have no health insurance. To work on changing this disheartening statistic, Biznik, in partnership with Seattle University, is hosting a forum called "Health Reform, Entrepreneurship, and Your Business" from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, September 24.
"American entrepreneurs deserve to compete on the same level playing field that every other wealthy nation in the world plays on -- where they can spend their time worrying about how to run their business, rather than how to pay their medical bills," said Dan McComb, co-founder of Biznik, who will moderate the panel.
"We like to think that America is the most entrepreneurial nation on earth," McComb added. "It's not actually: Turkey and Peru have much higher per capita rates of business formation than we do, with the U.S. coming in number seven on the list. Part of our problem is that would-be entrepreneurs are trapped in jobs they hate because they would lose their health insurance if they left them to start the business of the future. In effect, our broken system is putting a lid on the American Dream."
Panelists at his discussion will include a representative of the King County Public Health Department, the head of the Washington State Medical Association, a small business owner who supports public health reform, and one who favors private reform. Questions and comments from attendees are highly encouraged.
Immediately following the event, Biznik will draft a formal statement urging our region's elected officials to act on our country's health care crisis. For more information about this forum, visit Biznik.com.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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