This column by TAB CEO Glenn Hamer was published by Dallas Morning News. Photo by Getty Images. As the chief executive of the Texas Association of Business, I continually hear from employers that the rising cost of health care is unsustainable and it is an ongoing barrier to providing health insurance to employees. It’s been the top concern of small business owners since 1986.
In the past few weeks, more than 40 new health insurance mandates have been filed, threatening the financial stability of our Texas’ businesses and the access to affordable health care for their employees.
These mandates include requiring coverage for unproven tests and treatments, prohibiting the use of lower-cost drugs from outside pharmacies, guaranteeing high prices for drugs, and policies that cater to the special interests of one provider over another.
Texas lawmakers have an opportunity to make employer-provided coverage more affordable and offer more Texans health insurance. By passing consumer choice plans, the Texas Legislature can provide affordable coverage options that meet all the protections of insurance but are exempt from mandates that go beyond federal requirements.
The good news is that legislation has also been filed to create consumer choice plans. House Bill 1001 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione and Senate Bill 605 by Sen. Drew Springer would allow employers to buy mandate-lite coverage as a more affordable option.
In exchange for forgoing state-specific mandates, employers can utilize benefit design to buy the right coverage for their employees at the right price.
These mandate-lite plans will not compromise on coverage, including all of the Affordable Care Act protections. That means coverage for preexisting conditions, all of the essential health benefits, and evidence-based preventive services — like screenings for cancer, high cholesterol, depression, and Type-2 diabetes — are included. The mandate-lite plans would also meet the same requirements of legislators’ personal health coverage and state employee coverage provided through the state.
Keep in mind that Texas regulates only about 34% of plans because most large employers self-fund health coverage and are not subject to state regulation. This allows large employers to provide innovative coverage that is more affordable. That is part of why nationally 99% of large firms (more than 200 employees) offer health benefits but only 50% of small firms do.
Consumer choice plans help create the same opportunity for small businesses to offer affordable coverage that large employers are able to offer.
It is no secret that health care costs are a major concern for Texas businesses and their employees. In 2021, our state reached a high-water mark for the number of mandates placed on health insurance, and the consequences were significant. This trend is unsustainable and threatens the financial stability of small businesses and puts a strain on larger corporations.
In fact, Texas has more mandates and regulations above Obamacare than most other states, making it even more difficult for businesses to provide affordable coverage options for their employees.
In a recent TAB survey, 87% of Texas employers said that health care costs are rising at an unsustainable rate. Additionally, 87% agree that Texas businesses should stand together against legislation that attempts to increase the cost of employer-paid health care coverage. It is clear that Texas businesses need more flexibility and choice when it comes to health care options, not less.
That is why we are supporting the passage of legislation like HB 1001 and SB 605. This legislation is a win-win for Texas businesses and their employees, as it will lower premiums and increase access to quality health care.
We urge state elected officials to support the passage of more affordable coverage options and say no to higher health care costs and anti-business government mandates. Texas job creators know what’s best for their businesses and their employees, and we must trust them to make the right decisions for their workforce. Join us in telling our lawmakers to support HB 1001 and SB 605 and keep Texas the best state to start and grow a business.
Glenn Hamer is the chief executive of the Texas Association of Business. He wrote this for The Dallas Morning News.