Wilmington small business owner: What the Affordable Care Act means to my company

[Editor’s note: Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in the case of California v. Texas. The following article by Wilmington small business owner Caroline Fisher explores some of the disastrous impacts that the law’s demise would likely bring about for her company and others like it.]

I’m one of the more than 1.4 million small business owners in America who buys health coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Health Insurance Marketplace. The health insurance premium subsidies from the ACA played an integral part in my decision in 2014 to take the risk to start a new business. My company, Swahili Coast, is a small brand operating on fair trade principles. We’ve been able to employee a small staff here and overseas in part because we could access affordable healthcare for ourselves and our employees.

It is essential for the economic health of North Carolina that we support small businesses as the economic drivers of our state, and support policies that remove barriers to small business ownership. If we want to support entrepreneurship, innovation, and the “American Dream,” we must protect the Affordable Care Act. With the U. S. Supreme Court set to hear arguments to repeal the ACA today, we may soon see lack of access to affordable healthcare again emerge as a major roadblock to starting a small business.

Forty-four percent all jobs in North Carolina come from small businesses, and the ACA is vital to the health and viability of many of them in North Carolina, including mine. We talk a lot about how important the ACA is to promote individual access to healthcare, and that is absolutely true, but it also makes small business development and innovation more possible by eliminating a huge barrier to small business ownership: the cost of healthcare.

When we started our business in 2014, the ACA premium subsidies were a big part of our risk calculation. When we first started, we were like a lot of young entrepreneurs working hard on our dream. We worked on our business during the day and waited tables at night to make ends meet. At the time, our premium subsidy brought down the monthly cost of our premium to $0, rather than the $400 per month it would have been without the ACA.

As time has gone on, our business has grown, and each year our premium subsidies have decreased as we were able to pay more for our health coverage. The ACA was critical again this year, however, as our business suffered the effects of COVID-19 shutdowns and the recession, allowing us to again qualify for some premium subsidies, making it much easier for our family to get through this time of extreme uncertainty.

I also know firsthand the importance of having access to affordable health care. Prior to the ACA, there were several times in my life that I was uninsured, and I am so grateful and lucky that nothing happened to me during those periods. But two years ago I started experiencing health problems that required a battery of tests. Thanks to the health coverage I purchased through the ACA, I’ve been able to work with great doctors to address these issues. This means that I, like an estimated 66 million Americans, now have a preexisting condition that would make me uninsurable on the open market without the regulations of the Affordable Care Act.

Repealing the ACA doesn’t make economic sense, and it doesn’t make moral sense. To get rid of affordable health care for millions of small business owners would further cripple our economy at a time when small businesses are working hard to stay afloat and we are all doing our best to stay healthy in the face of a global pandemic.

Newly appointed Justice Amy Coney Barrett has repeatedly voiced opposition to the ACA, despite what she said in her confirmation hearings.

Let’s hope she undergoes a change of heart as repealing the ACA, particularly during an ongoing global pandemic, would be a cruel step backwards for our people.

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Wilmington small business owner: What the Affordable Care Act means to my company