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.