These 3 people were stuck in jobs they didn't want. Because of Obamacare, they quit.

Rebecca White really didn't enjoy being yelled at all day.

In her job as a telephone support representative for a bank, White — a Louisville, Kentucky, educator — had to contend with abusive colleagues, monotony, and patchy training that left her baffled by customer questions she was often unable to answer.

It was a job she felt she had to take. Struggling through a series of part-time teaching gigs left her with inadequate care for her diabetes and kidney problems. Relying on Planned Parenthood and other free or low-cost clinics for basic treatment was not working anymore. The job offered her health insurance — even as it left her glued to her chair for hours at a time, exacerbating her medical issues.


Photo via iStock.

"It was really rough on me to be as immobile as you have to be. There's no moving around," White says.

A month after the most recent legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was struck down by the Supreme Court in June 2015, White quit her job.

She now receives insurance through Kentucky's Kynect exchange while working part-time as a substitute teacher and launching her own tutoring business. Emotionally — and physically — she's in a better, more secure place.

Before the Affordable Care Act, if you got seriously sick, and didn't want to go bankrupt, having a have a full-time job with a good health plan attached was essential.

In 2008, a Harvard Business School study estimated that 11 million Americans were stuck in jobs they would prefer to change or leave because those jobs offered health care coverage.

In the years since ACA's passage, millions of those Americans have been able to leave those jobs and try something new.

Photo via iStock.

Data on the law's effect on "employment lock" — workers staying in unwanted jobs because those jobs offer health benefits — is mixed. A Princeton-Cornell study recently detailed in a working paper found that the ACA's Medicaid expansion produced no substantial short-term job shifting among lower-income workers. Meanwhile, an analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found a 10% increase in voluntary part-time workers since the first quarter of 2013.

The latter figure includes people, like White, who suddenly found themselves free to leave toxic or harmful work environments to pursue alternate or self-employment as well as others who discovered that working a series of projects, rather than a single full-time job, was a boon to their career growth and personal lives.

James Sasek, an IT worker in Des Moines, Iowa, discovered that the flexibility to jump from project to project afforded by his ACA insurance allows him to better balance work and family.

Sasek found access to the ACA's health insurance market invaluable after his wife was laid off from her banking job shortly after giving birth to their second child. The law allowed him to leave his own frustrating job and go freelance, something both he and his wife had long desired.

"Our plan is to take advantage of our gaps in employment to enjoy our kids' childhood with them," he said. "If one of us has a few months off between gigs, it's a really great and unique opportunity."

In addition to the flexibility to spend time with his family, Sasek explained that he earns more money in his freelance gigs than he did in his old jobs and that the ability to take on a diverse array of projects allows him to consistently add new skills to his resume.

For David Rigano, a theater director and playwright in New York City, the ACA was both a hurdle and a blessing.

After graduating from college, Rigano took a part-time job at Trader Joe's to secure a steady income and health insurance. When the ACA was passed, he was informed that he would need to scale up his hours to stay on his employer's health plan. Instead, he transferred to a plan on the exchange, which allowed him to continue to work a part-time schedule that helped him pursue directing and writing jobs.  

David Rigano (right) and brother Paul (left), performing in New York City. Photo by Tiffany Doris Kaldenbach/Facebook.  

"I learned a lot that year about applying for insurance as a freelancer whose work from year to year changes," he said.

With the freedom to work any job — not just one that offered him insurance — he landed a gig as a guest services representative at New York's Lincoln Center, which doesn't offer a health plan, and left Trader Joe's in December. His new job offers him a steady paycheck in his chosen field and lets him do personal projects on the side.

Some of the same folks are nervous that the law's repeal will jeopardize the gains they've made in their lives and careers.

Nearly 16.4 million people have gained insurance coverage since the ACA was passed in 2010, prompting many of them, like White, Sasek, and Rigano, to make big personal and professional decisions.

Unsurprisingly, the prospect of seeing the law scaled back — or done away with altogether — is setting their nerves on edge.

"If we go back to pre-ACA, my family will have to work more, have less choice in jobs, and spend less time with our children," Sasek said. It's a message he frequently relays to his local and national legislators.

Without coverage on the ACA's health care exchange, Sasek explained, either he or his wife would have to find work that offers it, giving them less flexibility to chart their careers or spend time with their kids.

White, meanwhile, worries about returning to a job that mistreats her. "Even if I can find one — and I looked a good long time before I got the bank job — if this is accompanied by the economy tanking again, and I'm pretty sure it will, things will just be a disaster," she said.

As the 115th Congress debates what to do with the ACA, the people who depend on it are waiting and watching.

With a Republican administration incoming, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare this year. While the repeal part is self-explanatory, it is unclear what a potential replacement would look like.

Photo via iStock.

For now, Rigano's theater career is on the upswing. In recent years, he's seen more paying directing jobs and is mounting a production of a new science-fiction musical in New York.

That trajectory, he worries, is what's at stake for him in the coming months.

"I think that a complete repeal without something comparable replacing it will result in a lot of people who need to find jobs and can't build careers," he said. A vastly scaled-back Obamacare would leave him with a tough choice: to compromise his goals for the sake of his health.

Like many of the law's beneficiaries, he hopes he doesn't have to choose any time soon.

True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

Over the past 30-plus years, there has been a sea change when it comes to public attitudes about LGBT issues in America. In 1988, only 11% of Americans supported same-sex marriage, while in 2020, that number jumped to 70%

Even though there is a lot more work to do for full LGBTQ equality in the U.S. the country is far ahead of most of the world. According to Human Dignity Trust, 71 jurisdictions around the world "criminalize private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity," many of these specifically calling out sexual practices between men.

In 11 jurisdictions, people who engage in consensual same-sex sexual activity face the possibility of the death penalty for their behavior. "At least 6 of these implement the death penalty – Iran, Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen – and the death penalty is a legal possibility in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, and UAE," Human Dignity Trust says.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!