How the Affordable Care Act helped me to start this independent news site

With Republicans in D.C. going through the steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act, I need to take a second away from bike news to talk about how the ACA is a major factor in the fact that Seattle Bike Blog exists. And given the continually dismal state of local journalism funding, it also seems relevant to share my indie news story.

My story is far from the most dramatic (I’m healthy, have a very supportive partner, and my middle-class white male privilege has freed me from many challenges others face), but I think it’s a decent illustration of how making health care affordable encourages people to make the leaps of faith needed to start any new business. And since you all read this blog, I figured you should know how the ACA helped during tough times.

(Also, before my haters say, “Another good reason to repeal it!” remember that this story could easily go for the future creator of Seattle Car Blog or ByYourOwnBoostraps.com)

When I scored a great internship at the Kansas City Star fresh out of college, I felt like I was on the path to being a career journalist that so many previous professionals had followed. Unfortunately, I had graduated in June 2008.

By the time my internship ended, the Star was laying off huge numbers of great longtime reporters. Needless to say, there were no “help needed” signs posted at their historic headquarters. I then moved to Denver just in time to see the city’s storied daily paper the Rocky Mountain News fold, putting an entire staff of high-quality journalists out of work. Then the recession hit hard. When I visited Seattle to decide if I wanted to move there, the city had two daily newspapers. By the time I sold my car and used that money to move here, it only had one.

The journalism industry was basically telling me to find a different career path, but I’m a pretty stubborn person. So I started Seattle Bike Blog on the side and went to work as Editor of another independent news site: Central District News (RIP). These were meager times, but I learned a lot quickly thanks to the very generous and tireless indie news mogul Justin Carder, Editor of Capitol Hill Seattle and owner of CDNews.

But by running two sites at the same time, I felt neither was getting the full attention they needed to grow. I needed to go full-time on the bike blog. And I was about to get a huge helping hand from the Federal government: The Affordable Care Act passed, so I could afford health insurance for the first time since I aged out of my parents’ plan.

Living without health insurance feels like rolling the dice every day you wake up. If I woke up one morning with appendicitis, that would be it. I’d be bankrupt. Seattle Bike Blog probably wasn’t an asset worth seizing, I told myself, but that wasn’t super encouraging.

So when the ACA passed and I was finally able to afford a health plan (with the help of subsidies), it was a huge weight off my shoulders. The monthly payments weren’t easy to make, but at least they were within reach. It’s hard to explain how liberating health care was for me as a struggling journalist trying to start a news business while the industry crumbled around me. There’s a reason people learn to walk a tightrope with a safety net below them.

Since going full time, the site has grown with the help of reader supporters and great local business sponsors to be a stable source of completely independent transportation journalism for the Seattle region. Our coverage has helped neighbors get organized and stay informed, it has guided major planning decisions like the 20-year Bike Master Plan, and it has advocated for major successful funding campaigns like the Move Seattle Levy. We’ve told stories about the people leading change or setting examples in their communities. We’ve shined light on how city processes work, and we’ve held elected officials accountable for promises to the people. And we’ve helped shape the city’s conversation about transportation, putting safety as a top priority and talking about bike routes as connections for people of all ages and abilities, not just the fit commuters or recreational riders.

I’m proud of what Seattle Bike Blog has accomplished, especially since going full-time in 2012. At times of continuing uncertainty in the local journalism industry, independent news is more important than ever.

My industry happens to be news, but there are many other industries that need new ideas and businesses. But business creation is at a 40-year low by some measurements, which should be very alarming. And with insurance rates on the rise, the ACA needs fixes to get prices under control (oh how I wish the Democrats had gone for a single-payer system).

But repealing the ACA and going back to the way it was would be devastating not just to people with pre-existing conditions, who are the most obvious reasons to support the law. It would also be devastating to the would-be entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

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20 Responses to How the Affordable Care Act helped me to start this independent news site

  1. ronp says:

    I just find it insane the Republicans want to unwind an obvious, and in the grand scheme of taxing and spending, a minor cost public benefit. No modern developed country allows its citizens to not be covered by health insurance. My only hope is that it will destroy their party at the ballot box for the next couple of elections.

    That it was based on Mitt Romney’s state policy and you show that it has clear benefits for startup businesses and entrepreneurial efforts, should make them think twice, but apparently not.

    Really the whole election of Trump has made me think I am living in some sort of alternate hateful reality and in some sort of soon to be dystopia. We just have to keep fighting back I guess.

  2. Joseph Singer says:

    It’s purely a partisan thing. Republicans don’t like it because it happened under a Democrat. Never mind that the blueprint for the ACA was Massachusetts’ health plan under a Republican governor Mitt Romney. Is the ACA perfect? No, not hardly but it’s hundreds of times better than what preceded it (nothing.) Mitch McConnell said it was his goal to obstruct everything that Obama presented.

    • Conrad says:

      I don’t think it is just a partisan issue. It is something else they can shift on to the backs of citizens, so they don’t have to pay for. Look around- health care, education, social security, the maintenance of national parks and other public land- all of these things are being de- funded by the feds. As near as I can tell, the federal idea of governing is sending plane loads of cash to the dictator of the week in the middle east.

  3. Merlin says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. We’re lucky to have you Tom!

  4. Peri Hartman says:

    Tom, keep up your great work. I didn’t realize that this blog is your primary occupation, that is very impressive. ACA isn’t dead yet and who knows what will happen to it. What will happen to you is another matter and I hope for the best !

  5. Lee Bruch says:

    It looks like the Republicans are going to trash ACA no-matter-what … and although they *say* there will be a replacement, will there be one? :(
    Donald Trump *says* there will be a replacement … so … let’s push him to act on what he says.

    I’ve started a petition on Change.org, as follows:

    “President-elect Trump: Ensure that a replacement for the ACA (Obamacare) is enacted simultaneously with any repeal of it.
    Hold on your desk all bills from Congress calling for removal of all or part of the ACA (Obamacare) until Congress has submitted for your signature bills for an adequate replacement. Sign the bills simultaneously.”
    The petition is at https://www.change.org/p/donald-trump-replace-the-aca-obamacare-simultaneously-with-any-repeal

  6. Andrew Sapuntzakis says:

    I think the lack of affordable individual healthcare bolstered the position of US corporations. Experienced staff, who could start rival companies, were more likely to have personal and family medical needs that became unaffordable outside of the corporate risk pool. Younger people, with fewer health needs, were less likely to have the experience to challenge the company.

  7. Jay says:

    Thank you for sharing your story! There seems to be millions of trump-supporters now realizing they have voted a death sentience on their sick child – elderly parents – friends – spouse. .. themself.

    There are also the hillary-supporters now realizing how would this day be different if rules, policies, and laws where not broken in a desperate attempt for a president based soley on gender instead on who hand the popular backing and could have beaten trump and, most important, who would have made a better Democrat president.

    Mistakes are hard ways to learn. This mistake will cost lives, possibly in numbers larger than those lost in wars.

    • another jay says:

      I’d just like to say that I am not the Jay above, while this day would likely be different if Comey hadn’t broken policies, not to mention the Russians, even without their help Trump’s campaign and surrogates could have come up with enough unsubstantiated innuendo to make Jesus Christ look bad.

      Sometimes I wonder if putting the HRC sticker on the back of one of my bikes was a mistake that could cost a life (mine), probably sounds paranoid, but I don’t think anyone would deliberately run me down for that, however I can well imagine someone “just” trying to scare me and misjudging how close they are.

      Do you seriously think ‘merica would vote for a Communist Jew? What’s that, you disagree with that characterization? WRONG!

  8. Erik says:

    Thank you for starting this website but the Affordable Health Care Act promised to lower medical costs. It isn’t the fault of the act for not doing so but going in it was destined to fail as the penalty for avoiding it was too low to encourage MOST healthy individuals from joining and spreading costs among the rest of the risk pool. This left those in the pool being way riskier from a claims basis than the rest of the uninsured as those willing to be in it were those with more serious conditions or those likely to have them. In addition, healthcare costs are also rising for a myriad of reasons outside of the of act not really driven by the act. Thus, in the end taxpayers ended up footing the bill for higher subsidies for those on the lower income scale, likely those like you who don’t make a ton off this website. In the end the act subsidizes this website which wasn’t the intent of the act nor should taxpayers be expected to subsidize your website. Readership should pay for that. In the end if we aren’t willing to address the myriad of factors affecting high healthcare costs none of this will change.

    • another jay says:

      Tom gets other people to pay for his health insurance? That makes him SMART! He didn’t even have to lose hundreds of millions to do it! Well, sure he never had it to lose, nor the credit to borrow it then default, but that is beside the point.

      #BuildTheWall (i.e. protected bike lanes) make the drivers pay for it!

    • (Another) Tom says:

      The part this analysis leaves out is that we subsidize low/no income individuals healthcare regardless and much less efficiently.

      We don’t turn people away at emergency rooms because they can’t prove their ability to pay. (and thankfully so – I once awoke in a hospital bed after a serious accident. I had insurance but they didn’t know that until I was able to identify myself, glad I wasn’t left on the sidewalk to die.) It is significantly more efficient / less costly to provide preventative medicine and guidance to treat medical issues before they become so acute the person is at the emergency room where the cost of care skyrockets and resources are limited. Hospitals need to keep the lights on so everyone’s cost of care is increased to cover those who cannot pay.

      If we are going to subsidize the care regardless (and we are) we might as well provide complete, efficient care.

      • Joseph Singer says:

        The thing people conveniently leave out about visiting the emergency room is that no one is turned away but you are expected to pay. If you do not pay your credit worthiness will be noted on your credit score. So, even though you went to the emergency room and spent all of 15 minutes you got dinged $1800 (me a few years ago when I wiped out turning a corner and breaking my clavicle.) You are expected to pay.

  9. Dave says:

    Politicians from the Rethugliklan, oh, I mean, Republican party don’t like it because it was enacted by a black, Democratic president who they’d decided they would not allow to have a successful term. Wish I could have voted for him a third time.

    • Joseph Singer says:

      There is more truth to what you’ve written than Republicans want to admit. Considering that the ACA was built on the model of “Romneycare” the health system used in Massachusetts.

  10. Lee Bruch says:

    Why stop with abolishing the ACA? Abolish ALL insurance … fire insurance, health insurance, auto insurance … all of it … it’s just a socialist scheme for those who have a fire, or get sick, or have a car crash to get others to help pay.

    And while we’re at it, abolish the police (those who need protection can pay for their own) and abolish the military (private armies would be much more cost-effective) and abolish the public road system (if it were needed and people wanted to drive private enterprise would supply it at competitive rates). Man, we could carry it even further to all realms and have a totally tax free and non-socialist country … wow … wouldn’t that be wonderful? Make the whole country and all its happenings into one cage-match without a referee … a giant lottery ruled by survival of the luckiest.

    Make civilization is passe’.

    • Peri Hartman says:

      There’s an enormous difference between health insurance and other kinds of insurance.

      1. That cost variance on health insurance is enormous. A clinic visit might cost $200. An extended hospital stay might cost $100K. For most people, $100K is more than they want or can spend out of their assets. A system is needed for leveling the costs to each individual.

      2. Everyone needs treatment for something during their life. When that happens, you’ll need to pay via one system or another. Not the same as losing your home to a fire. While a disaster, you are under no obligation to pay to have it rebuilt.

      3. You cannot opt out of living in the same way you can opt out of owning a car if you don’t want to pay insurance.

      • Lee Bruch says:

        Exactly why we need things like the ACA and other governmental programs.

        My comment was an attempt at sarcasm applying reductio ad absurdum to much of what the Republicans and libertarians spew re heathcare, mass transit, and a host of what we need to have a civilized country

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