Affordable healthcare made my career possible

Don’t deny a whole generation of entrepreneurs

In my career, I’ve been the founder of two startups: one that powers internal communication for the governments of three nations, and one that helps organizations own their own online communities. I was the first employee at a company that powers fast delivery of news footage back to the newsroom for hundreds of stations across the country. I’ve worked on distribution and openness at one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent online services (you’re using it right now). I was the first Geek in Residence at the world’s largest arts festival. I’ve mentored media startups and organizations like KQED and the Dallas Morning News. I once explained APIs to the rock band Genesis (don’t ask).

None of this would be possible without affordable healthcare.

I graduated with a CS degree in Edinburgh, which at the time wasn’t exactly rich with computing jobs. In the end, I found myself working for the university in a perfectly good mid-range coding job. And there I might have stayed, had I not seen the possibility for a platform that would change educational technology to be more social and web-based. This led to more and more opportunities that otherwise would never have been open to me.

I don’t come from a wealthy family; I went to state schools; I lived on an ex-council estate on the edge of the city. I didn’t have a pool of money to fall back on. But nonetheless, I felt empowered to leave my job and start a new venture.

The only way I could possibly have done this was by knowing I’d be safe because of national healthcare. The NHS — Britain’s excellent single-payer health service — gave me the security I needed to become an entrepreneur.

The company I started completely changed my career. Even if I’d been in Silicon Valley, with all of the funding opportunities and people to look to for mentorship, America’s healthcare system would have made it impossible to take this risk. If something had happened to me, even as small as a broken bone or an illness requiring serious medication, I would have been bankrupted.

Republicans say they’re pro-business, but time and time again they make decisions that reduce the number of people who can start a business. People from poorer backgrounds are forced to work for richer people, with no recourse or opportunity for change. Healthcare is one of these areas: real health infrastructure would allow many more people to innovate and contribute to the economy in new ways. Without it, people have to stick to their existing jobs for dear life, literally. The result is an underclass of indentured servants. It’s immoral and obscene.

One of our acts of resistance over the next four years has to be to correct the lie that social infrastructure like healthcare and welfare are anti-business and bad for the economy. Giving a hand up to people who need it, and empowering them to meaningfully innovate, is one of the most pro-business things we can do.

The Affordable Care Act wasn’t perfect. A real, single-payer system would be far better. But it was sure as hell better than nothing. The people working to repeal it should be ashamed, and we can’t let them get away with their smokescreen of lies and bullshit rhetoric.

Writer: of code, fiction, and strategy. Trying to work for social good.

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