The CEO of Uber said Friday that Obamacare has played a crucial role for his army of drivers, an unusual, partial endorsement of the president's signature policy from a man often cast as a hero of anti-government libertarianism.
BuzzFeed News reported in October that the new, subsidized market for health care has been a boon to companies like Uber, which are essentially digital middlemen relying on armies of independent contractors. Figures ranging from Uber drivers to Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber called the health care overhaul crucial in the emergence of the sharing economy, but Uber had remained officially silent on the subject until Friday.
"It's huge," Travis Kalanick, Uber's CEO and co-founder, said in response to a question about Uber and Obamacare at a dinner in Manhattan. Kalanick didn't comment on the specifics of the health care policy, but said he sees little sense in the traditional link between employment and health care; he said he believes all Americans should have access to some health care safety net, without losing the option of paying more money for private care.
And he said the success of Obamacare's core goal — creating a functioning individual market for health care — is very much in sync with Uber's vision of a liberated work force.
"The democratization of those types of benefits allow people to have more flexible ways to make a living," Kalanick said. "They don't have to be working for The Man."
Uber is vastly the largest and most successful of a new wave of sharing economy companies, adding 50,000 new independent contractors to its platform nationwide every month, and Kalanick's endorsement comes as a new Republican Congress feels its way on issues touching both tech and a health care policy many of its leaders have sworn to repeal.