Health

How Obamacare helped the self-employed in California

More self-employed Californians have health insurance under Obamacare.
More self-employed Californians have health insurance under Obamacare.
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Self-employed Californians are most likely to be impacted if Obamacare is repealed, according to an analysis released Thursday by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.

In 2013, 885,000 self-employed Californians didn’t have health insurance. That number dropped to 476,000 by 2015, according to the analysis, which examines data from the California Health Interview Survey.

The improvement in the number of uninsured self-employed people didn’t surprise Laurel Lucia, one of the report’s authors.

"When I think about the people I know personally who’ve benefited from the Affordable Care Act, most of them work for themselves or a small business," she said.

Most working-age Californians get health insurance at work. Consultants, independent contractors and people who own their own businesses don’t get that sort of compensation. In 2015, more than half a million Californians who work for themselves were enrolled in Medi-Cal or Covered California.

"Without the Affordable Care Act I would not have insurance today and I would not be in business for myself," said Kateri Gutierrez, who started Collective Avenue Coffee in Lynwood in October 2015.

The 24-year-old, who qualified for Medi-Cal under the Medicaid expansion, said she was uninsured when she became sick. The illness delayed her getting her business off the ground, she said.

"That got in the way of us moving forward, because I had to focus on paying the ambulance bills, the emergency bills,” said Gutierrez, who worries about a potential Obamacare repeal. "It can hurt business, and this could stop many people from really growing their businesses or continuing."

Early this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would drastically change how much help Americans get to pay for their health insurance premiums. Lucia at UC Berkeley believes that would disproportionately impact self-employed people.

"For self-employed and small business employees who rely on private insurance, the subsidies for premiums under the House-passed bill would be less generous for many low- and middle-income Californians, especially for those who are older or who live in high-premium areas," said Lucia.

The U.S. Senate is working its own version of a health care overhaul bill which is expected to get a vote this summer.