Freelancers, Small Business Owners Worried About Possible Health Insurance Changes

Freelancers and small business owners are concerned about Republicans' plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

By Erin Delmore

“It would make coverage more expensive. It would insure fewer people,” said New Jersey Main Street Alliance Business Representative Jerome Montes.

New Jersey freelance workers and small business owners are up in arms over the Republican plan to replace Obamacare, which they say would hurt their bottom line and jeopardize their employment options.

“The Republican plan to repeal and replace would be a disaster for small business owners like myself and particularly for freelancers who depend upon affordable health care because it’s really tough to be a freelancer in this day and age,” said James Parker, owner of Riverview Studios.

“This plan is endangering lives because it’s actually threatening health care. It is threatening people possibly with medical bankruptcy,” Montes said.

Under the new proposal, Americans aren’t required to pay a fine if they don’t have health insurance. Rather, it’ll cost them more to buy in later if they skip or drop their coverage now. Federal support for Medicaid is down, subsidies changed, the small business tax credit gone by 2020.

“Let’s keep in mind that there are 46,000 small business owners that don’t have business plans. They actually have individual ACA marketplace plans. They don’t want to see their premiums go up. They don’t want to see the premiums go up for their families,” Montes said.

The Republican plan retains some of Obamacare’s most popular provisions like allowing people under age 26 to stay on their parents’ health insurance and barring insurance companies from charging more or denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

“I have pre-existing conditions — multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia — that require really expensive treatments. My husband has his own conditions and between us, our health care bill could easily run to between $5,000 and $6,000 a month if we didn’t have the ACA. We have read what the Republicans plan to replace the ACA with and frankly I’m scared,” said freelance photographer Dierdre Ryan.

Ryan said she and her husband paid thousands a month for coverage from Cobra before the ACA was enacted.

“If our health care expenses jumped, we can’t wait for a tax credit at the end of the year to pay for our bills. And we still don’t know if we’d qualify for coverage under the new plan,” she said.

Freelancer Terri O’Neill said the Affordable Care Act allows her and other creative professionals to pursue a job they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

“The ACA has been characterized as burdensome to business. But these freelancers are their own business. The ACA in fact means more creative and employment freedom for freelancers like myself,” she said.

Asked how the Republican plan is going to impact New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie said wait and see.

“I think as the president said yesterday, and the vice president, this is the beginning of conversations. So we’ll see. I mean, I don’t think what is there is going to be the final bill. I think that’s pretty clear from the reaction to it. So we’ll see,” he said.

The Main Street Alliance said it’s hoping for thorough discussion on the plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, including public hearings and a review by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.