#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?
For the past year, I’ve been a partner-in-audition at a venture capital fund called Learn Capital. Learn Capital invests in promising new education companies, but to play in this space I’ve needed to take care of my own savings plans, retirement, taxes, and healthcare and dental benefits. The ACA made it easy to get health insurance, and work in a non-traditional space without worry that I’ll be left without affordable healthcare in an emergency.
Before Obamacare kicked in, I had to bend over backwards to keep my continuing coverage and it was very expensive — it was twice as much as I’m paying now.  With Obamacare, I was able to go sign up for a more affordable plan, one which I get directly instead of through an employer. So, I can continue to help raise a fund to invest in promising young education companies, and I know I can stay covered. I can continue entrepreneurial work without ever having to change providers.  
What are some challenges you have had to overcome in your line of work?
Being an entrepreneur and giving advisory services to startups is inherently unstable. Some roles last five years, some are six months, and some are part-time for three months. Many fledgling companies don’t have benefits set up yet, and when they do they’re only buying for 5 to 10 people so the group buying benefits of large companies don’t kick in.  
What motivated you to share your story?
The instability of entrepreneurial activity can be a real stress, even without the addition of unstable health care. This is especially true for people who have families. Entrepreneurship is essential to the economic health of our country and we need policies that are entrepreneur friendly. 
In an innovation economy, human capital must be flexible. To me, this requires that healthcare be decoupled from employment with large, stable corporations.  
What advice do you have for other geeks?
Stay hungry, stay foolish. Stay healthy, sign up.

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