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Uber CEO Travis Kalanick on What Obamacare Means to Drivers: "They don't have to be working for The Man."

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Topics:  Uber
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Uber CEO Travis Kalanick on What Obamacare Means to Drivers: "They don't have to be working for The Man."

Bill Crittenden
November 16, 2014

Ride-sharing service Uber essentially lets anyone become a taxi driver, using the Uber app as a middleman between users seeking cheap rides and people with cars and excess time on their hands looking to make a buck.

It's a libertarian dream, and Travis Kalanick a libertarian hero for winning battles against entrenched taxi company interests who use municipal licensing simply as a way to block competition, but for those looking to make it as full-time Uber drivers there's one element of "big government" that's stepped in to help in an unexpected way: "Obamacare."

The marketplace provisions of the Affordable Care Act have freed people from "job lock," the principle that between employer contributions and employer group rates individual health insurance policies were prohibitively expensive. Combine that with delays in transferring to new policies if you switch jobs, and people were "locked" into their current employment.

Personally, I've had to turn down a better paying job some years ago because of the 10-month insurance downtime before I was eligible for a policy with the new company. You just can't do that with a toddler in the house. I was "locked" in to my current job.

But now subsidies and statewide groups have replaced employer contributions and employer groups. The fact that it's not tied to any employment lets people change jobs without worrying about anything more than making their premium payment on time. No paperwork, no transfer issues, no having to balance the costs and benefits of a company's insurance plan in your decision to take a new job.

Goodbye, job lock.

So now the ACA has freed up people to become independent contractors for "sharing economy" companies like Uber and still keep their health benefits, and "it's huge," says Kalanick recently when asked about the ACA's contributions to Uber in Manhattan.

"The democratization of those types of benefits allow people to have more flexible ways to make a living. They don't have to be working for The Man."

And this would, of course, apply to all sorts of taxi companies that classify their drivers as independent contractors to avoid paying benefits (or taking any responsibility for them, but that's a separate topic). Drivers stuck as independents have wider access to healthcare than ever before.

But before you buy that beaded seat cover and tell your boss to take that job and shove it up his ass, take note that your vehicle's insurance probably isn't Uber-ready yet.

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