The federal health insurance marketplace has been a big help to startups in Austin in the past few years. It’s giving tech workers the ability to buy health insurance when their fledgling employers are too small to provide benefits.
But as Republicans look to repeal the law in the next few months, tech industry folks in Austin are worried the end of the marketplace could slow innovation.
Mason Hale started a small tech company here in Austin about six years ago called Swimtopia. It’s a website that helps people manage competitive swim teams.
“Most people aren’t aware of how complicated it is, but most teams are over 100 kids and keeping track week by week, who is not, what events they are going to swim,” he explains.
Hale’s startup helps keep track of all this for teams in about 40 states, but it’s still a small company.
Hale has six employees right now– a mix of full-time and part-time. And like other startups, getting off the ground has been a slog. He says it’s a lot of work and a lot of risk.
“And that is terrifying enough without having to worry about healthcare,” Hale says.
Hale says the health insurance landscape is one big thing that has changed since he started Swimtopia, though.
Before Obamacare, Hale didn’t have enough employees to get a good insurance rate for him or anyone who works for him.
Because of the law, however, the federal government created a health insurance exchange. It’s been running in Texas for about four years now. In it, insurance companies sell plans directly to consumers at an affordable rate.
It gave people like Hale the ability to buy insurance while they build a business.
“It really gets down to this idea of personal freedom,” Hales says. “Like having the freedom to go start something new – to go take a risk. Really to kind of pursue that American dream. Where for a lot of people they are chained to their job because they have to have healthcare. Or at least they were and I am concerned about the idea of going back to the way it was.”