03/05/2008 11:05 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Ladies Who Launch: Women Entrepreneurs Keeping A Close Eye On Candidates' Health-Care Proposals

By Jen Schonborn,

Katie McCaskey, owner of graphic design company Bee Cre8tive, has what she likes to call "CYF" health insurance--as in, "Cross Your Fingers." It was a great plan for Katie. As she explains, "The most serious medical situation in our household thus far was on a trip to Cincinnati, when my boyfriend was bitten by a police-mounted horse."

But we all know what happens eventually with the CYF plan. In Katie's case, her luck ran out when she suddenly lost her vision. And while her condition ended up being temporary, her trip to the emergency clinic left her with a daunting pile of out-of-pocket medical bills.

Katie's story, of course, isn't unique--we all know someone like her. Which is why it's perhaps not surprising that, in a survey of Ladies Who Launch members, 93 percent of respondents said that they believe there is a health-care crisis in this country. And 84 percent of our members said they're paying attention to the presidential candidates' stances on health care because of it.

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain may want to take note of what these entrepreneurs have to say on this issue, given that 99.7 percent of all employers in the U.S. are small businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, and that women are starting businesses in this country at twice the rate of men, according to the Center for Women's Business Research. Many of these women are the employers that workers turn to in hopes of getting health insurance--but our survey showed that 76 percent of respondents don't provide coverage to their employees, primarily due to the prohibitive cost. Fourteen percent don't even have insurance for themselves.

"Working in the spa industry over the last 10 years I have been offered health care once. Once!" says Sarah Russell, owner of the Simply Esthetics spa in Cleveland. "When I started my business, health care was a non-issue for me. After all, other salons and spas didn't offer it. But now that I approach 31 my relaxed attitude about health insurance has tightened up a bit and I no longer feel safe without it. I am closely watching the candidates and my vote will in part be determined by the health-care issues."

86 percent of respondents feel that the process of finding health insurance is either difficult or impossible. No wonder, then, that 47 percent believe that a new government policy on health care might help their business. It might even help them grow -- 25 percent said that the cost of health insurance has prevented them from either hiring more people or has forced them to hire only freelancers whom they don't have to insure.

"I'm mad at the health-care industry right now," says Leslie Jacobs, professional organizer and creator of Les Mess Organizing Cards. "I could quit my full-time job and work at something I love called my own business if I had access to the quality health care I receive at my full-time job." Leslie isn't alone: 45 percent of our members who would like to start their own businesses stay at their old corporate jobs just for the insurance.

Many other women end up having to depend on the men in their lives for health-care coverage. Thirty-one percent of the women we surveyed who do have insurance are covered through their husbands. Others can only wish for such an arrangement.

"Health insurance has forced me to request a shotgun wedding of my fiance, who is insured with the Directors Guild of America," says Katie Hellmuth, a Web site and accessories designer in New York. "My fiance politely declined my request to visit the justice of the peace, and my mother almost fainted."

So come November, if a candidate with a proposal for sweeping change in the health-care industry is voted in, perhaps we'll see a lot more ladies launching, and more jobs that come with full benefits. But perhaps most importantly--fewer swooning mothers.

Ladies Who Launch ( is a diverse community of entrepreneurial women in various fields--from fashion and beauty to finance, personal services, and beyond--who find community, inspiration, and support from each other both online and through events and Incubators in 53 markets across the U.S. and Canada.