Texas’ Group Health Insurance Problem

There was a very informative article in Time Magazine last week called “The Health Care Crisis Hits Home”. The author, a journalist with 15 years covering health policy, wrote of her brother in Texas whose kidneys are failing. He had been insured for 6 years with one company, buying a new individual short-term policy each six months because group health insurance wasn’t available through his employer. After being diagnosed, he found out that the short-term policies he purchased were “junk”. One expert said, “No one should ever buy them. It is false security that is being sold”.

This article demonstrates the catch-22 which we face in Texas. None of us want our employees to face overwhelming medical bills. However, many of us as employers feel like we can’t afford to provide health insurance for our employees. In fact, the Time article says that only 37% of small companies in Texas (less than 50 employees) offer group medical coverage. As a result though, 1 in 4 Texans is without health insurance. Even more are underinsured, like the author’s brother, who have some type of coverage but find out when they become sick that their policy is insufficient.

What can you do about this as a small Texas employer? Talk to your employees about whether health insurance is important to them and if they want to make a sacrifice to obtain it. More and more surveys that I see in my human resources and employment law trade magazines indicate that benefits are equally as important to an employee as the salary offered. I know of many employees, such as my husband and his fellow high school teachers, who are highly motivated by the benefits that their jobs provide to them and their families, particularly since their salaries are nothing to get excited about considering the importance of the work they perform.

In Texas, you can obtain a group health insurance policy as long as the employer pays 50% or more of the employee’s premium. Because the group rates are so much lower than the rates for an individual policy and the coverage is so much more complete, your employees may be willing to pay for as much as half of their premiums in order to be protected. This could also mean that you and your own family could obtain decent coverage.

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