More from the Annals of Job Lock

Another real life story about ‘job lock’ and Obamacare from TPM Reader AR

About five years ago, my wife had a small battle with skin cancer, and underwent two small procedures to remove a cancerous growth. Beyond the shock of a late-twenty something hearing the words “you” and “cancer” in the same sentence, there were no serious medical consequences. The procedures removed all of the cancerous tissue and my wife has remained as healthy as they come ever since. Unfortunately, this did not matter to every private insurer in our state. For years my wife was deemed as having a preexisting condition and was routinely denied private health insurance coverage.

As a result, my wife was forced to remain at her job in order to keep her employer-provided insurance coverage. Now, in some ways we were lucky in that she worked for a small organization that even offered health insurance in the first place. But this job was not my wife’s ideal career. She had always wanted to be a piano teacher, but with us now entering into our early-thirties (i.e., baby-making time) it was impossible or highly impractical for her to leave a job that provided insurance. So she stayed at her employer while taking on as many piano students as she could manage, while also continuing to apply for private insurance (as well as to other jobs that might be more flexible—thereby allowing her the time to ramp up her piano teaching business—while also providing her with health insurance, but in a brutal job market in a down economy, this was a pipe dream).

In October last year, my wife’s life reached a fork in the road. For the two previous years she had effectively worked two jobs—her day job that provided the health insurance and her rapidly expanding job as an independent piano teacher. In October 2013, her piano student base grew by leaps and bounds. But, at the same time, she was maxed out; there were simply not enough hours in the day to accommodate all of the potential students and work eight to nine hours at her regular job. As a result, she was faced with the choice of either quit her regular job and go without insurance in order to continue to grow her piano teaching business or turn away students when her business was just beginning to reach a point of financial viability.

I prompted her to try applying for private insurance one more time. We figured that with the ban on denials based on preexisting conditions coming up in January 2014, maybe some insurers were already changing their application approval process. My wife applied, and one of the private insurers accepted her. Overnight, her life changed. In short order, she was able to resign from her job, her piano teaching business continued to grow, and now with the ACA fully implemented we are receiving substantial governmental subsidies to help pay for our health care (I am, and have been for the last two and half years, a full-time law student). In a few months I’ll graduate and start working, and we will gladly no longer receive governmental subsidies. But, for now, the financial assistance has been a massive help. It has allowed us to shift everyone of the several hundred dollars we would have spent on private insurance into savings for our (knock on wood) soon-to-be first child.

Without the ACA, my wife would not have been able to quit her regular job in order to fully commit to starting her own business. If the above makes her one of the 2.5 million Americans who the GOP claim are now “discouraged” from working, then I am proud of my discouraged wife for working fourteen-hour days for two years to build her business, quitting her regular job to completely commit to the business she built, and continuing to be a smashing success.

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