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Healthy, Wealthy & Wise

January 17, 2017

Benjamin Franklin said a lot of things. “Laws without morals are in vain” was attributed to him. As was this “Early to bed and early to rise” nonsense. You’re going to miss out on a lot of bar room wisdom if you are habitually early to bed.

But good health requires more than a healthful diet, regular movement, and good genes. It requires attention, early intervention, and professional medical care. I’m very lucky. Very, very lucky. And that in itself makes me sad, because this should not be about luck.

I’ve never been without medical insurance. Before I landed my first job, I was carried on my parents’ plan. Then I was insured through work. When I was laid off and decided to embrace a freelance career, I bought my own policy. Then I purchased a separate policy for Young Master Fussy when he was born.

All by myself. It felt very grown up. Very responsible. Very secure.

Why am I mentioning all of this on a food blog? Good question. Recently, there’s been a tragedy around one of the beloved classic restaurants in our community. And I really couldn’t bring myself to share it without talking about a much larger issue that impacts not just this one business owner, but surely many other entrepreneurs who do great things for the food scene in our area.

Here’s the first tragedy. Toll Gate Ice Cream has closed. Granted, the closure may not be permanent, but things aren’t looking good.

The backstory is that the owner of this classic ice cream parlor and restaurant died a few years ago, and his son Rob continued to run the family business. Now Rob is in the hospital recovering from emergency surgery.

Here’s the second tragedy. Rob didn’t have medical insurance. According to the Go Fund Me page that Rob’s sister has set up, he simply couldn’t afford it.

Without a doubt, the affordability of health insurance is out of control. When I was faced with buying two policies, that was 2004. It was in California, so I was able to get Kaiser for myself, and a traditional Blue Cross plan for the newborn. I was in my early thirties, a non-smoker, in relatively good health, but with a family history of heart disease. Still, my total bill was under $300 a month.

When we moved to New York and Mrs. Fussy had to buy her own insurance for a short time before her work plan kicked in, the cost was seven hundred dollars just for her. It was shocking.

But let’s back up for a second. In this current case, we’re not talking about new arrivals to a new town. We’re talking about the business owner of an established and beloved institution.

That’s a third tragedy.

To be an entrepreneur, you have to possess an intense optimism that most people lack. And that optimism might allow the entrepreneur to put aside short term assurances for long term outcomes. “If I can’t pay myself for a couple of years, that will be fine, because I’m building a business.” There is inherent risk in the proposition. Skipping out on health care coverage could be a part of that calculated risk.

However, to be successful, you have to have a long term plan for your business.

If you work and toil at something, with the idea that it will be the source of your income, that thing needs to accomplish a few basic tasks. It needs to clothe you, feed you, keep you dry, and keep you healthy.

Those are the basics. And if a business can’t cover the basics, then it’s not a sustainable business. Maybe it’s a great hobby, or a reasonable source for supplemental income.

Of course, I say this, knowing all too well that there are many entrepreneurs who are in a similar situation. Business owners give their all to their businesses, and that sometimes means sacrificing themselves for the enterprise.

I’m not going to make any kind of specific stand here on healthcare policy. The ACA is not without its flaws. But I do believe that healthcare is a human right. And as this current situation proves, it’s bad for business when people don’t have access to affordable preventative care.

The good news is that the Go Fund Me page seems to be doing well. The bad news is that I am certain other local business owners are in this same situation. And many probably won’t speak up about it until it’s too late.

My concern is that this is a much bigger problem than we realize, and that there are lots of people in exactly the same boat. I know that I don’t want the fate of my favorite local places to ride on the good fortune of the owner’s remaining in good health.

Hopefully you don’t either. Maybe some business owner can reach out, publicly or privately, and give me a sense of how people can help. You know, before they end up in the hospital with bills they can’t pay.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2017 11:21 am

    I don’t go to the Tollgate as much as I should. As I donated my few bucks to the GoFundMe the other night, it occurred to me that we all should have been spending this dough at the establishment! Proprietors can’t live on our childhood memories… I am pretty good about frequenting my favorite places, but I probably only made it to Tollgate 3 or 4 times a year lately.

    I hope they reopen. I can right now see in my mind my kids sitting on the tailgate of my truck dripping ice cream all over themselves in the Tollgate parking lot…

  2. KingOfBeacon permalink
    January 17, 2017 12:24 pm

    I’m still relatively new to the region (just over 2 years) but I’d never heard of this place before. And I love that it doesn’t close in the winter like the other places. That’s generally the time of year when I like to eat ice cream. I hope everything work’s out for them because they’ve made a new customer just on their flavors alone.

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