Elizabeth Spehar: Without high-quality health care, my condition would have been devastating to me and my business

Elizabeth Sephar

When someone starts a small business, especially a restaurant business, they don’t expect to make a profit—or even pay themselves—for a while, years in many cases.  For me, having a pre-existing condition adds to the risk of financial security.  Luckily for me, I had access to high quality affordable health care through MNSURE.

I was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic bone disease that makes my bones break easily.  Growing up, my parents worked in the public sector so we always had really good health care. Without that, I might not be alive today. I simply cannot be without health care—at any cost. When I started my small business in 2013, I knew I wouldn’t be making much money for myself right away but I knew I needed health insurance.

In February of 2013 Governor Mark Dayton signed HF9, a bill that expanded access to Medicaid under the ACA to 35,000 newly eligible Minnesotans. It reduced the uninsured rate in the state by 39%; because of that, I qualified for state health insurance through MNSURE. I have to worry about a lot of things for my business, but health care is not one of them.  It gives me piece of mind that if I need insurance, I have it. 

Since starting the business four years ago, I have had five surgeries. Without high-quality health care, my condition would have been devastating to me and my business. The amount of money I would have had to pay if I was uninsurable would have been astronomical and would have likely put me out of business.

Next month, we celebrate our fourth anniversary, and I am proud to how far we’ve come.  Over the past four years, we have expanded the business tremendously.  We have two employees who are paid living wages and have benefits, we are a safe and welcoming community space and are active in our city and business community.

There are so many people in our community who are just like me who have innovative ideas, have a dream of starting a business, but also need health care, and are held back from it.  Whose ideas aren’t coming to light because they are so bogged down by how they will pay for their medication or treatment?  What would our economy look like if more people like me, who has a vision for a new business, and want to bring something new to their community were able to do it?

As a small business owner with a pre-existing condition, I am urging all our lawmakers to continue to build from the protections in the ACA and not take us back to the day when taking on the risk of starting a new small business was out of reach for any innovators with a pre-existing condition.