For so many Americans, Obamacare offered career freedom. A repeal could take that away.

Health insurance and career opportunity are impossible to separate for Erin Hoover.

Hoover is a 37-year-old Florida State University student who will graduate with a doctorate in English literature this spring. She is also eight months pregnant.

Until recently, Hoover had a clear plan. She would have her baby in March, graduate in May, and begin adjunct work to build up her resume. She felt like she was on a good path; one of her poems was recently selected for the Best American Poetry anthology of 2016.

Adjunct positions typically don’t offer health insurance, but that seemed fine. Hoover expected she and her baby would continue to get coverage through the Affordable Care Act, which she has relied on since 2014.

But the presidential election changed all that. Republicans have promised to repeal the health law, but haven’t yet shown what their replacement plan looks like. Hoover doesn’t know if the programs she relies on now will be available. And she thinks that might reshape her impending job search. She is now considering going back to a career in public relations because it would offer benefits.

She is not thrilled at the idea.

“I just spent five years getting this degree,” she says. “I was hoping to utilize it in a new job rather than the old job that I used to work in years ago.”

I spend a lot of time talking to Obamacare enrollees like Hoover: people who struck out on their own — left a job, started a business, went back to school — after Obamacare. They felt empowered to do this because in the reformed individual market, insurers had to offer everyone coverage — and couldn’t charge sick people more.

And now, many of them are already beginning to rearrange their lives around the law’s uncertain future.

There were 1.4 million self-employed people who relied on the marketplaces for coverage in 2014, recent research from the Treasury Department shows. That works out to one-fifth of all marketplace enrollees being people who work for themselves.

Vox has spoken to about a dozen of them, mostly members of a Facebook group we run for Obamacare enrollees. For them, the Affordable Care Act was an opening of opportunity: the possibility to try a new career path knowing that they didn’t have to worry about where they’d get coverage. The possibility of repeal, they say, feels like a narrowing of choice.

Here, they describe the choices they were able to make because of Obamacare — and how they are changing their lives now that the law’s future is in jeopardy.


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