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Wineke: Why Obamacare will preserve our future

Published On: Aug 22 2013 04:01:53 PM CDT

Lost in all the debate about Obamacare is the promise of what it will do to encourage our kids to take the risk of starting their own businesses.

Our current model of health insurance, based primarily on employer-subsidized coverage, just doesn’t fit today’s economic situations.

It worked for me, pretty much. When I was 49, I needed coronary bypass surgery and my company insurance paid for it, just as it paid for the diabetes supplies I needed until I retired and became eligible for Medicare.

Employer-supplied health insurance was a good thing for me; it saved me from bankruptcy and, most likely, saved my life. But it also tied me to my employer for the next 16 years.

I was uninsurable on the open market. In fact, some of my friends in Human Resources told me that a less reputable employer would have found some reason to fire me after the surgery because I was surely driving up the cost of the company’s insurance premiums.

Now, I loved my job and I most likely would never have followed through on my fantasy of leaving at age 55 and becoming a parish pastor in some northwoods lakeside community. But the fact is also that I dropped the fantasy because I could never run the risk of being without health insurance.

But that was 20 years ago and economic conditions then were far more stable than they are today. Quite a few of my younger colleagues in the newspaper business have since lost their jobs . . .and their health insurance.

Other companies, UPS is this week’s example, are starting to wonder why they cover the working spouses of their employees. If I run a company with good insurance benefits and my employees have spouses with less generous benefits, am I not being put at a competitive disadvantage?

When it comes to the young, those problems become far more troubling. It is highly likely that many of our young people will determine that, if they want jobs, they will have to create them.

This is a good thing. This is a very good thing. People who own their own businesses not only add to the economy, but they add to the community. They are the men and women who, eventually, join the Rotary and participate in the Chamber of Commerce. They are the people we think about when we wax nostalgic about Main Street America.

They are also the people who can’t afford today’s individual health insurance rates and who can’t take the risk of having uninsured children and who will find it difficult to recruit employees for their new businesses if they can’t offer benefits.

To them, Obamacare will be a lifeline to independence. It’s a good thing.

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