Business Concerns

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If you are an entrepreneur, your insurance situation may start out precarious, and then you get pregnant.  The best situation is to have a working spouse with good company provided health care, but we aren’t all so lucky.  What about women who are really out there in entrepreneur-land without a net?

Well, you’re a smart woman, so you picked up health insurance.  Great.  But, what if you were one of the unlucky ones who bought a health insurance policy that didn’t cover maternity and pregnancy care?????  Uh, oh. Yes, it can happen.  Similarly, your policy may consider a pregnancy put into place within the first (X) number of months to be a pre-existing condition.  Bizarre. 

In Pennsylvania, there is a state-run program called (Health Beginnings/Healthy Beginnings Plus) If you are pregnant, you may be eligible for Healthy Beginnings – a Medical Assistance program that provides comprehensive health care coverage to pregnant women during pregnancy and for their babies for a full year. The program is completely free. Call 1-800-842-2020 for more information on how to apply and where you may receive care at a location near you. You can also access Web information at www.dpw.state.pa.us, “Services for Low-Income Pennsylvanians.” If you meet the income requirements to be eligible for medical assistance, you may be eligible for this program.

You may also negotiate with a private provider for reduced rates in exchange for cash or advanced payments.  You may also check into alternate care providers.  The Bryn Mawr Birth Center is a women’s health facility located across the street from Bryn Mawr Hospital (their backup facility), and they offer “scholarship” type plans on a limited basis.  It is worth making some phone calls to your preferred provider to find out what arrangements can be made to handle your care.

We can only hope that the health care changes passed in recent years address these problems so that all new moms have access to adequate care.  Especially if they are working their butts off as risk-taking entrepreneurs.

If you are not yet pregnant, take the time to read your health insurance policy and sit down with your insurance provider.  There may be time to correct your insurance situation and ensure those premiums you’ve been paying will actually cover a pregnancy in the future, either by adding coverage, waiting out a specified time period, or switching providers. 

 

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After an article I wrote appeared in Kalamazoo Parents magazine, a stay-at-home dad contacted me because he was mad mad mad about the recent changes curtailing financial rights of non-employed parents.  Did the fed regulations on the CARD ACT of 2009 really update in October 2011 to say that stay-at-home parents without income really have no access to credit?  Here’s what I found.

The information is buried pretty well, but the original reference is here: http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/bcreg/20101019a.htm . One of the major provisions of the CARD Act of 2009 was to limit the marketing and credit that could be targeted to college students, who are largely without income.  However, the clarified language expanded the
provision to be of concern to anyone without their own independent income or assets.  See the third bullet in the Fed’s press release:

When evaluating a consumer’s ability to make the required payments
before opening a new credit card account or increasing the credit limit on an
existing account, card issuers must consider information regarding the
consumer’s independent income, rather than his or her household income.

 If you really want to read into it, check out the HRML or PDF link at the bottom of this press release, right about in the middle, where it states:

“The Board generally intended Sec.  226.51 to establish consistent standards for evaluating a consumer’s ability to pay. Specifically, Sec.  226.51 requires that card issuers establish and maintain reasonable written policies and procedures to consider the income or assets and the current obligations of all consumers, regardless of age.

See Sec.  226.51(a)(1)(ii), (b)(1)(i), and (b)(2)(ii)(B). For all consumers, a card issuer must consider either the ratio of debt obligations to income, the ratio of debt obligations to assets, or the income the consumer will have after paying debt obligations. See id. Furthermore, regardless of a consumer’s age, (emphasis added) it would be unreasonable for
a card issuer not to review any information about a consumer’s income, assets, or current obligations, or to issue a credit card to a consumer who does not have any income or assets. See id. Some card issuers request on application forms that applicants simply provide their “income,” while other issuers request that applicants provide their “household income.” The Board understands that there has been some confusion as to whether information provided by a consumer in response to a request for household income can be used by a card issuer to satisfy the requirements of Sec.  226.51. In particular, the Board understands that there has been some uncertainty as to whether Sec.  226.51 established different standards for underage consumers and other consumers with respect to the consideration of household income or assets. There appear to be three sources of this confusion.

   
First, the Board understands that some of the uncertainty regarding household income results from the fact that, in the February 2010 Final Rule, the Board expressly concluded that the income of an underage consumer’s spouse could not be used to satisfy the requirements of Sec.  226.51(b) but did not state a similar conclusion with respect to the general rule in Sec.  226.51(a). See 75 FR 7723. However, the issue of spousal or other household income was not addressed in the context of Sec.  226.51(a) because it was not raised during the comment period.  Accordingly, the Board is addressing the issue in this rulemaking.” 

This rule was tacked onto the previously passed CARD Act after a comment period that expired January 3, 2011, and then the rule passed.  So this was a done deal.  You can
read for yourself the current language in the CARD Act.  You can clearly see that the language was expanded to say any consumer, not just those under 21.

By the way, there are a ton of books on the market, and mine is just one of them, encouraging moms to start and run a professional business from wherever they live.  Although it might feel a bit odd for dads to read these books, they’ve got many of the same issues.  If you are very fired up about this issue (and I hope you are!), let me encourage you to protect your turf with a business if you choose.  If not, that’s cool, too.  We have so many option these days to protect our families and our professional selves, that we really are blessed. 

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I got a call recently from a colleague with great news…she’s pregnant! But she’s also exhausted and worried about the business. She wanted to know how she’ll make it through without tanking the business she spent the last five years building. The good news is that the first trimester is often the hardest for many women. Oddly, the second trimester actually brings a surplus of energy for many. So taking care of yourself, napping when possible, and doing what you can to keep the business rolling, you’ll soldier on until you hit the second trimester, and then you can put some extra energy into planning the rest of your pregnancy and your first few months with your newborn. When I shared all of this with my friend, she was very relieved. She called me just a few weeks later letting me know that she was tackling new projects. You go, girl!

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The same week my book was published, Forbes.com posted an article entitled, “The Pregnant Entrepreneur and the Venture Capitalist  Who Wouldn’t Fund Her.”  Jessica Jackley, cofounder of two significant small businesses, shares her reactions to a blog post where one of her investors questions her ability to be a mom and a leader since she is expecting twins in the fall.

Helloooooo.  Moms are born leaders.  Or did this male VC never have a mother?

Jessica points out an attitude that any pregnant business owner deals with at some point, whether it is from an investor, a client, a family member, or (sadly) herself.  No one ever asks a man if he’ll be able to continue to do his job after he expands his family, and yet someone will ask that of a pregnant entrepreneur.

Like many other places in life, a woman may have to over-plan, proactively explain, and just plain out-perform her male counterparts to sail through these waters. It’s gonna happen, ladies, so be ready for at least one neanderthal to bring this up, or to make an unfavorable decision during your pregnancy. It’s not the end of the world.  In a few months, your motherhood will be more of a title than a fashion accessory.

If you get burned by discriminatory attitudes, remember that the good guys do outnumber the bad guys.  I have two favorite stories about client reactions during my pregnancies.  One client contacted me for a work session during my ninth month of pregnancy.  We chatted on the phone and arranged to meet for the appointment.  I prepared him for a very pregnant person arriving on his doorstep, but I also made it clear that if I didn’t arrive as planned, it was only due to an early arrival.  We did joke that, as a professional organizer, I intended to deliver on my due date, and that’s what happened.   He was great to work with.

The second story was a design client who put off a project we were planning, and at the last possible minute begged me to do a project before my maternity leave because his kids were visiting.  He appreciated the redesign job we completed (genius was the word he used), and then asked if I had moved the baby grand piano.  This guy had no concept that a pregnant woman would have any limitations and could be suspect of moving a baby grand. I had worked for him before, and so he knew to expect good things from my company.

I can’t imagine any circumstance as an entrepreneur where running into discriminatory attitudes would be cause for more than a little grousing and whining.  If you think otherwise, or have been in a situation that required action, I’d love to hear about it.  Mostly, I was able to chalk up subtle doubts and concerns from clients to experience and move on.  Remember, pregnancy is temporary.  Just about 50% of the workforce is female, and once you get through this stage, you won’t be special or a target to anyone, except your little ones.

 

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