Moving in the right direction...towards accessible, affordable care

I have always aimed to work for a large company. This was as much to maximize my career potential as it was in finding a good paying job. I was taught by my father to look at the intangibles when negotiating compensation, not the least of which was health insurance benefits.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes shortly before graduating from college, I was still in a sweet spot for coverage – I could still stay on my parents’ insurance. It wouldn't be long before I found out how hard it can be to buy a health insurance policy on my own with a pre-existing condition.

As a new business school graduate, I lucked out and found an employer that offered health care coverage, a small business that was generous enough to pay 100% of the premium cost. I found out quickly how rare this sort of thing is. This small business quickly found out that in tough economic times, they needed to cut back expenses. Rather than lay off employees, they chose to cut health benefits. This is an all too common situation.

Coincidentally, another opportunity came up and I left that company shortly after those changes. The opportunity came through a very large global high tech company, which, along with more stability, offered better health care benefits at a more affordable cost to the employer and employee.

I was glad for these benefits but I still couldn't shake the nagging question of Why? Why was it ok for health insurance companies to negotiate better rates and lower premium costs for large companies but not small ones?

During the period between leaving my small company job and starting my large global corporation job, I did some research on what it would cost to buy health insurance on my own. I applied with four different major health insurance providers and was automatically turned down by three. The fourth provider offered me a policy to the tune of $1,700 per month. I felt tremendous relief that I was headed into a job where I knew I could get affordable coverage.

But this is still not the case for many, many Texans. According to the Center for Public Policy Priorities, more than 67% of all businesses in Texas are small businesses (considered companies with fewer than 25 employees). The cost to provide health insurance is still astronomical. And what of the thousands of self-employed men and women in this state? How do they even obtain health insurance if they or their spouses or their children have a pre-existing condition? Sadly, they don't. These families balance on the precarious edge between health and catastrophe.

There is good news, though.

The Affordable Care Act is making it possible and more affordable for individuals and small businesses to purchase insurance. Since 2010 children can’t be excluded from individual health insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and this will be true for adults in 2014. Small businesses can also receive up to a 35% tax credit for providing health insurance for their employees.

But the news gets better.

In 2014, no eligible person will be able to be turned down for health insurance coverage or up-charged based on health history. Tax credits will be increased to up to 50% for small businesses that provide health insurance to their employees.

I think we're moving in the right direction and we're taking the right first steps in creating a health care system that is accessible and affordable for all Americans.

Contributed by: Gloria Litt, Austin, Texas.