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Maggie Utgoff Headshot

Do What You Love, But Don't Get Sick

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2012-09-18-xoxo.jpg

Andy Baio and Andy McMillan organized the Kickstarter funded xoxo conference/festival in Portland last weekend. Why "xoxo?" According to Andy Baio It's about using technology to make something you love. Speakers talked about the future of the internet as a place where people can follow their dream and connect with others who appreciate what they are doing. I'm not sure what the take away was supposed to be, but I left feeling like I can follow my dreams without conforming to the order of operations normally involved in monetizing a creative outlet.

People are making something they love without compromising their artistic integrity, and putting it online for sale directly to customers, cutting out the middle man. Emily Winfield Martin who created Black Apple on Etsy described this as "a time where any misfit can find a place for themselves and make their own job." Unfortunately, those misfits have to be a good financial bet for health insurance providers, and have the money to pay an exorbitant amount for health care.

So I'm about 10 percent done with the book I've always wanted to write and I was hoping to fund it on Kickstarter. But... a few months after I left my last job I missed a $600 per month payment (don't mail things from small towns in Nevada if you need them to arrive anywhere in a reasonable amount of time) and was dropped from COBRA. COBRA stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which became law in 1986. COBRA gives you the right to choose to keep the group health insurance benefits that you would otherwise lose after you quit your job. It's also the the name of a highly venomous snake, which is appropriate given my experience. As luck would have it, what "Obamacare" created for the uninsured in Californians excludes people who missed a COBRA payment. I have a pre-existing condition and I'm not willing to lie, so I was denied coverage from every insurance provider until I found a short-term plan that will cover my hospital bills in an emergency. Starting October 1st, my insurance will expire and if I don't get a job I'll probably turn into some Howard Hughes type character and stay indoors with my bike helmet on rambling about germs.

James Swirsky aand Lisanne Pajot who raised money on Kickstarter for "Indie Game: The Movie," revealed their secret to healthcare: be Canadian.

I talked to quite a few independent artists who told me about how hard it has been to pay out-of-pocket for health insurance. One artist I love, who sell's his stuff on Etsy, told me his wife's Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) counted as a pre-existing condition and makes their payment outrageously expensive. Most women have had one. I guess this is just another part of what makes being a woman a pre-existing condition.

My experience at xoxo made me confident that someone will solve this problem. Bre Pettis of Makerbot applauded the open source community and considers owning a patent a waste of time. People are living on the edge of what's possible and sharing. If people using this approach are taking on behemoths like banking and cable television (Simple and VHX), healthcare must be right around the corner, right?

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