Small business is often considered the foundation of local economies, which means a recent report about the Affordable Care Act may be real good news for West Virginia. The report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that the number of self-employed people in West Virginia will rise by 13 percent, or 6,000 people, after the ACA is fully implemented in 2014 (Figure 1).
One of the major barriers people face in setting out on their own is the difficulty in obtaining health insurance. Leaving a job often means leaving the guarantee of subsidized health coverage for the uncertainty of the individual health insurance marketplace. When people stay in jobs that they might otherwise leave because of a fear of losing health insurance or other benefits, this is known as “job lock” in policy speak. Some studies have suggested that this reduces job mobility by as much as 25 percent.
Through the creation of the Insurance Marketplace as part of the ACA, individuals who don’t have access to employer-based health insurance will be able to shop for comprehensive insurance plans at affordable, and often subsidized, rates. Additionally, new rules prevent insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, or charging them more for it. Essentially this means that anyone who chooses to become self-employed or start their own business will be guaranteed access to affordable health insurance. In many cases, they’ll even receive tax credits in advance to lower the monthly premium cost.
Organizations like Vision Shared were created specifically to promote entrepreneurship around the state. They help provide training, resources, and other important assistance that start-ups may need to take off. However, this single component of health reform, the Insurance Marketplace, may be just what the doctor ordered (pun intended) to push the thousands of potential entrepreneurs in West Virginia into action.
If small business is the foundation of our economy, the ACA may soon be considered the bedrock upon which it sits.
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