"I just want to be able to afford my health insurance." – Fellene Gaylord
March 7, 2013 (Portland) — When Fellene Gaylord, 58, was laid off from her job, she had the skills start her own business. What she didn't have, after losing the group coverage she received from her former employer, was health insurance. It's a problem many potential entrepreneurs face.
"I felt like I was working without a safety net." ~ Fellene Gaylord
Gaylord, who lives in Portland, also has pre-existing conditions that priced her out of health care coverage for years. With a touch of arthritis in her knee and high cholesterol, she was denied coverage by four health insurance companies. She did find one that would insure her in a high risk pool but the premiums were more than her mortgage - $1,000 per month. Another insurer could offer her a group plan if she had at least one employee, but her business, Sirius-Media.com, was just getting off the ground.
"I felt like I was working without a safety net. It affects you psychologically, also." Gaylord said.
After more than two years of looking for insurance, she did finally land a high-deductible plan but it doesn't cover prescription drugs, such as the one she takes for high cholesterol.
"It's OK. But it is still a big part of my business expense," says Gaylord. She also pays for health insurance for her two 20-something children, who are just starting to launch their careers after completing college.
Gaylord is looking forward to the day that Cover Oregon, the state's new marketplace for health coverage, opens next January. Also by next year, no one can be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions. She hopes some of her health cost can be subsidized or she can get lower deductibles. She has already checked out the Cover Oregon online calculator, that estimates how much financial assistance people may receive in 2014.
"I've always been independent," Gaylord says. "I'm not asking for anything. I take care of myself. I meditate, I eat a vegetarian diet and I walk. I just want to be able to afford my health insurance.
She also predicts that other entrepreneurs will more likely be able to start their own businesses if they can afford their own health insurance.
"Providing affordable coverage for middle-aged people I think is going to empower people to go off on their own and be entrepreneurs," Gaylord said.