Let's Get Political

Praying For The Wellness

Abby Schwarzwalder is the founder of FirstWinter Films in Los Angeles. Like many new entrepreneurs, Schwarzwalder, 29, had to cut corners when she launched her documentary business in 1995. "I couldn't afford health insurance. I thought 'I'm young, and I'm planning on being healthy.' Boy, was I wrong." Within a month of leaving her corporate job--and her insurance--behind, Schwarzwalder got into a severe car accident, racking up more than $5,000 in medical bills and four months of recovery. "It was a huge financial burden and almost sank my business. If I could change one thing about our government system, it would be health care."

Schwarzwalder is not alone. A joint survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation of California and New York's Commonwealth Fund found that more than 50 million working-age Americans are without health-care coverage or had recently suffered a gap in coverage. More than half of these are under age 35. No wonder health care is a major hot button for young entrepreneurs--especially for those faced with paying high premiums to insure their employees. "Every year, we take a survey of our members," says Angela Jones of the NFIB, "and every year, health care comes up as their number-one concern."

What's the solution? Traditionally, conservative groups such as the NFIB have supported greater privatization of health care and a "leveling of the playing field" for small business. Legislation they support would allow self-employed individuals to fully deduct the cost of their health insurance premiums--a benefit the employees of incorporated businesses currently enjoy. Other proposed changes include decreasing state regulation of small business and expanding the availability of medical savings accounts, which would encourage investing by providing a tax-free investment vehicle.

But many young entrepreneurs disagree with privatization, leaning more toward a government solution. "So [what if] we pay more taxes?" says Schwarzwalder. "It would be worth it for the assurance of care, no matter what stage of life we're in."

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This article was originally published in the January 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Let's Get Political.

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