If we care about entrepreneurs, we have to care about health care reform

by Ryan Streeter on July 2, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Everyone knows that Austin, TX, is a boom town. It’s become a well-known haven for startups and entrepreneurial dynamism.

But you might not have known this:

We’ve reached a point where nearly 25 percent of workers in Austin are self-employed or otherwise not in traditional “wage and salary” jobs, and I expect that figure to keep growing.

That’s from an interview with Brian Kelsey, who runs an economics consulting firm in Texas. The “free agent nation” hypothesis is alive and well in Austin, where many talented workers have discovered they can do better on their own than by joining a company.

He says the days of corporate culture vacuuming up the best talent are largely over, as our economy – especially the thriving parts of it – is rewarding the self-starter more than ever.

It’s worth reflecting on this comment, though:

┬áThere are downsides, of course, with health insurance near the top of the list of concerns for these “free agents.”

Speaking personally for a minute as someone who’s self-employed, the math I’ve done on what Obamacare will do to my family’s health insurance premiums next year drives me to drink. As if a sick joke, the law is called the “Affordable Care Act.” In fact, the law pours gas all over the worst fires that were already burning in our dysfunctional health care system, driving up costs at frightening rates.

And no one feels the pain of these cost spikes like the self-employed free agents who don’t have the company plans to offset the premium costs.

This is why some of us have been making the point for awhile now that healthcare reform is necessary if we want to revive entrepreneurial dynamism in America. And not just any reform, but reform that specifically focuses on getting rid of the preference for employer-provided health insurance in our tax code in favor of a universal credit anyone can use to purchase health insurance, and reform that makes portability of insurance a priority, as well as competition between plans all over the country.

These changes would radically reshape the health insurance marketplace into one that favors the entrepreneurs we keep telling ourselves we care about in America.