Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • #GeeksGetCovered: Real Estate Entrepreneur Encourages Geeks to Enroll

    As consumers surge to on the last day of open enrollment, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s #GeeksGetCovered initiative continues to focus on raising awareness, sharing stories, and encouraging healthcare enrollment among geeks, innovators, and entrepreneurs.

    As part of the effort, I recently caught up with Seattle-based entrepreneur Galen Ward, who founded the real estate website Estately in 2006. While he was able to purchase individual health insurance at that time, he reflects: “If I'd had a preexisting condition that made health insurance unaffordable, I wouldn’t have Estately in the first place. There’s a myth that entrepreneurs are risk takers. We’re actually risk managers.” Galen has seen firsthand other entrepreneurs struggle with lack of coverage, and the negative impact it had on their ability to focus on their dream. Today, Galen is passionate about encouraging other entrepreneurs to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act and to get covered.  

    Galen Ward

    Galen Ward, Founder, Estately

    Why do you consider yourself a “geek”?

    I’m a numbers guy and I make numbers-backed decisions. Every day at Estately we geek out on real estate statistics and user experience data. I created the company to help people become real estate geeks. 

    What does having affordable healthcare mean to you?

    Affordable healthcare for all means anyone who wants to can take the same risk I did and start their own company without risking their health and without risking bankruptcy because of a health issue. It means people can take time to work to build a skill - like learning to program - in order to get a better job and without worrying about access to health insurance. That’s phenomenal. That flexibility is what allows people to build a better life for themselves, and, once in a while, to build a groundbreaking new company or product.

    How can the Affordable Care Act—or access to affordable, quality health insurance—enable entrepreneurs to pursue new opportunities?

    When we made our first, second and third hires at Estately, health insurance was a huge wild card that we just couldn’t afford to offer.

    I hated doing it, but we had to ask people to either find their own health insurance or take a risk - otherwise we couldn’t afford to hire them. It limited the people who were interested in working for us. Employers shouldn't be in that position, and workers should not have to be dependent on the availability of healthcare when deciding whether to take a job.

    Now that we have the ACA this isn’t an issue for many startups, because they have options in the marketplaces. I genuinely believe the Affordable Care Act is one of the best things to happen to startups and small businesses in America in my lifetime.

    What advice do you have for other geeks?

  • #GeeksGetCovered: Education Entrepreneur Shares His Story

    Earlier this month, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy launched #GeeksGetCovered, an effort focused on raising awareness, sharing stories, and encouraging healthcare enrollment among geeks, innovators, and entrepreneurs.

    As the final day for open enrollment falls, we’ll continue to share stories about what access to affordable, quality healthcare means to geeks across America.

    We recently caught up with entrepreneur Michael Staton, who enrolled in health insurance via the online Marketplaces. Michael has worked with a variety of innovative education companies in roles ranging from founder and CEO to venture partner to advisor. Here’s what he had to say about the importance of innovators in the startup world having access to affordable healthcare in order to pursue their dreams—and the next big idea.

    Michael Staton

    Michael Staton

    What does affordable healthcare mean to you?

    Affordable healthcare means that I can continue working with and for small and agile companies without instability in my healthcare coverage. I can own the relationship with my insurance provider, instead of my employers owning it. My employers are often bootstrapped or lean, or I may not have a direct employer as I transition from one project to the next.  

    I once spent six months completely unemployed while I started a company. Eventually, as I transferred control of that company, I consulted for three different startups simultaneously.  Now I work for a small venture capital fund where the partners are expected to finance their own healthcare.  
    Do you consider yourself a “geek”?
    Of course.  But I think geek, like love, is more of a verb.  I geek out on so much, usually entrepreneurial initiatives in the education space.  I also geek out on tech, media, and creativity.  
    How has the Affordable Care Act enabled you to pursue new opportunities?

  • Statement by John P. Holdren on Approval of the IPCC's Climate-Impacts Report

    Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) approved its Working Group II report on climate change “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability”— the second installment of the group’s full Fifth Assessment Report. Upon the report’s approval, John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science & Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, issued the following statement:

    “Climate change is a global threat, touching every region of the world and every sector of the economy.

    The IPCC’s new report underscores the need for immediate action in order to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change. It reflects scientists’ increased confidence that the kinds of harm already being experienced as a result of climate change are likely to worsen as the world continues to warm.

    The report highlights the widespread and substantial observed impacts of climate change, and its growing adverse effects on livelihoods, ecosystems, economies, and human health. Importantly, it also concludes that effective adaptation measures can help build a more resilient global society in the near term and beyond.

    The IPCC’s findings reinforce the importance and urgency of work already underway across the U.S. Government to implement President Obama’s Climate Action Plan—with its multipronged focus on reducing U.S. emissions, boosting climate-change preparedness and resilience, and working across borders to develop global solutions.

    Today’s approval follows more than five years of collaborative work by hundreds of physical and social scientists from the United States and around the world to comprehensively assess what is known about the global impacts of and vulnerabilities to climate change. More than a dozen U.S. Government researchers contributed to the report and Federal investments enabled many of the peer-reviewed scientific studies that underpin its findings.

    I applaud the many expert contributors to this report, which today stands as the most comprehensive and authoritative synthesis of knowledge about global climate-change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability ever generated.

    The Obama Administration is committed to continued participation in IPCC activities and to the rigorous use of scientific information as a foundation for action to address the threats from climate change.

    I look forward to this Administration’s ongoing collaboration with international partners to finalize the IPCC’s full Fifth Assessment, set for release later this year.”



  • #GeeksGetCovered: Health Care Geek Gets Coverage of Her Own

    Gail Peace, healthcare entrepreneur

    Gail Peace

    Last month, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy launched #GeeksGetCovered, an effort focused on raising awareness, sharing stories, and encouraging healthcare enrollment among geeks, innovators, and entrepreneurs. 

    As part of this effort, I caught up with Gail Peace, a health-care entrepreneur who recently enrolled in coverage through the Marketplaces. Gail discussed what it’s like to be a healthcare geek, and how the ACA has helped her focus on making the healthcare industry even better.

    Gail, who has over 20 years of experience in health-care-related professions, was consistently denied coverage on the individual insurance market because of preexisting conditions. Along with her husband, who is self-employed, Gail obtained COBRA coverage after the pair decided to start their own company. After an allotted period, their COBRA coverage expired, and for several months, Gail and her husband were forced to go without health insurance before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect and they were able to enroll.

    Because of the opportunities available in the ACA marketplace, Gail and her husband were able to purchase a high quality plan and turn their attention to the task of growing their business.

    Gail is President and CEO of Ludi Inc, a company that helps hospitals and health systems to coordinate business operations and manage physician activities with compliance requirements.

    What does having affordable healthcare mean to you?

    I believe healthcare should be available to all people. Under no circumstance should a health-related event bankrupt an individual or family. Period.

    Why do you consider yourself a geek?

    I started Ludi Inc., a software as a service company, in the summer of 2012. Our first product, was a technology that physicians use to track time worked on contacts in real-time. The contracts are typically administrative in nature, through which a hospital is pays a physician an hourly rate for work performed. We help organizations streamline the processing of and reporting on physician payments.

    I had the idea to build this product in my former job as Vice President of Business Development for a four-hospital system in Chicago. Tracking these complex agreements was challenging, and if not done timely, created dissatisfaction amongst physicians. As physicians are referral sources to hospitals, care must be taken to make sure the contract is followed exactly to avoid compliance risks. The purpose is to help minimize compliance exposure using technology.

  • Seeking Gifted Data Geeks, Scientists, & Entrepreneurs to Serve as Presidential Innovation Fellows

    “Today I’m announcing that we’re making even more government data available, and we’re making it easier for people to find and to use.  And that’s going to help launch more start-ups.  It’s going to help launch more businesses… It’s going to help more entrepreneurs come up with products and services that we haven’t even imagined yet.” – President Obama, May 9, 2013
    Freely-available, open government data is a valuable national resource driving innovation across the country—from entrepreneurs developing new apps, products, services, or companies to organizations spurring new insights and answers to pressing challenges. In fact, a recent report found that, in addition to catalyzing a variety of societal benefits, open data can generate more than $3 trillion a year in additional economic value.  
    Open data is good for the American people, and good for American business. That’s why we are seeking a few talented individuals to serve their country on a tour of duty– as Presidential Innovation Fellows – to help us unleash government data so that it can be put to use in valuable ways that benefit the American people. 
    Are you a talented data scientist or engineer? Or, a data geek, tech-savvy designer, or entrepreneur ready to lend your talents and expertise to help transform how government works for the people it serves? Then we want you to consider joining the ranks of the Presidential Innovation Fellows. We are currently accepting applications for the next round of the program, which pairs talented, diverse individuals from outside government with Federal innovators to implement game-changing projects. 
    The program includes a range of “Data Innovation” projects that aim to accelerate and expand the Federal Government’s various initiatives that work to make data more accessible and useful for citizens, companies, and innovators, while continuing to ensure privacy and security. These efforts include both open data initiatives, which focus on the release of general data resources in computer-readable formats , and “MyData” projects focused on empowering Americans with secure and useful electronic access to their own personal data (e.g. “Blue Button” health data, “Green Button” energy data, IRS’s Get Transcript, and more). Both kinds of initiatives aim to boost entrepreneurship, innovation, and the creation of tools that help Americans find the right health care provider, identify the college that provides the best value for their money, save money on their electricity bills, keep their families safe by knowing which products have been recalled, and more.
    We need an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to keep the momentum going around our open data and MyData efforts. If you are an innovator and want a big challenge with an opportunity to make a big impact, here’s your chance.  
    Round 3 Presidential Innovation Fellows willhave the opportunity to tackle eight exciting Data Innovation projects involving the following agencies:
    • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working to make its vast weather, climate, and earth observation data holdings more easily available and usable in the cloud, to unleash the full potential of these resources, spur economic growth, and help entrepreneurs launch businesses.
    • The Census Bureau collects and produces a wealth of geospatial, demographic, and economic data resources, and is seeking to make its maps and geospatial information easier for the public to access and use.
    • The National Aeronautic and Space Administration is working to make its earth observation data open and machine-readable, and is working to make climate data easier for innovators to find and use to develop new climate resilience tools.
    • The U.S. Department of the Interior is working to make a wide variety of newly catalogued government data, including data about tourism and recreation opportunities on the Nation’s public lands and waters, easy for entrepreneurs and innovators to discover and use.
    • The U.S. Department of Labor, in support of the President’s Skills and Training Data Initiative and Safety Data Initiative, is working to make its job skills and safety information data resources more open, machine-readable, and useful for third parties innovators.
    • The Internal Revenue Service is introducing many new digital services for taxpayers, including making it easier to securely access their own tax account, make mobile payments, check their refund status, or conduct other transactions. The Agency continues to work with its many third party stakeholders to deliver better services in support of tax administration.
    • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Defense, is partnering with the private sector to expand the Blue Button initiative aimed at empowering consumers with secure access to their own healthcare information—including prescription information, medical claims, and lab data—and is working to support the scaling of the effort across the healthcare and wellness industries.
    • The U.S. Department of Energy is working to accelerate the commercialization of National Laboratory-generated technologies, in part by making information about those technologies easier for the public to find and use.

    For more information and to apply, please visit the Presidential Innovation Fellows program.


    Nick Sinai is U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer             

    Ryan Panchadsaram is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer   


  • #GeeksGetCovered: A Maker’s Story

    OSTP Geeks Get Covered David Perry

    Oregon-based engineer David Perry playing an open-source 3D printable electronic violin.

    President Obama has said that 3D printing has “the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.” David Perry, an Oregon-based mechanical engineer, couldn’t agree more.  As a self-described “maker”, David is working to develop useful applications for inexpensive 3D printing. One project of his is an open-source “F-F-Fiddle,” a fully 3D printable electronic violin. 
    When the Affordable Care Act became law, David knew that it would be even easier for him to pursue his dream. He knew the health insurance marketplaces would be open, and he could access quality and affordable health care without being tied to an employer. So, starting April 1st, David will have more time to develop great ideas and help encourage everyone to “make”.  David recently enrolled through the Marketplaces, and with the security of affordable, quality health coverage, he has decided to begin working full-time for the startup he founded, OpenFab PDX, which focuses on low-cost digital design and manufacturing tools. 
    As part of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s #GeeksGetCovered, effort we’ll be sharing stories about what access to affordable, quality healthcare means to geeks across America. 
    I recently caught up with David, founder of OpenFabPDX, who shared his story with us on Twitter through @WhiteHouseOSTP’s recently launched #GeeksGetCovered effort: