Senator Craig Estes
The Senate of the State of Texas - District 30

For Immediate Release
April 22, 2003
Contact: Lewis Simmons
Phone: (512) 463-01301

Capitol Update
Affordable Healthcare for Working Families
By Senator Craig Estes

Nothing can be more frightening and frustrating to a parent than a sick child with no access to affordable healthcare. Along with housing, food and education, access to quality healthcare has become a cornerstone in the foundation of our quality of life. As the costs of healthcare continue to rise, more and more families are being squeezed out of coverage due to high insurance premiums.

Today, most Texans rely on their employer to provide their access to affordable health insurance coverage. However, the rising cost of premiums makes it nearly impossible for many small businesses to provide affordable, quality healthcare for their employees and still stay in business.

As an employer I know the value of dependable, hardworking employees. In addition to an honest wage, benefits like health care go a long way to helping keep the quality employees I need to help my business succeed and continue to provide jobs for our community. I know my fellow small business owners would all prefer to provide health benefits to their employees. However, the costs for many are simply too high.

The problem of the uninsured is not unemployment. Nearly 68 percent all uninsured Texans currently have a job. We are talking about more than two million hard working Texans with no access to affordable healthcare.

It is not necessarily the goal of public policy to make employers the primary vehicle for providing healthcare coverage for working Texans, but it has become a fact of life and of conducting business that employees expect healthcare as part of their wage and benefits.

So how do we help the thousands of working families get the affordable healthcare they need? We do so by helping their employers find innovative ways to pool resources to help bring down group health insurance costs. Major companies like Dell, IBM and others can provide lower cost health insurance because they have a large number of employees to help spread the costs of risks. The larger the group, the lower the rates.

So the legislative solution is Senate Bill 10 which allows small companies to form employee groups to help spread the costs and lower insurance premiums. By allowing small companies to work together we can help provide the needed healthcare coverage for uninsured working Texans. Helping small businesses provide healthcare for their employees is not only good for the workers it is also good for small businesses struggling to compete with larger businesses for quality employees.

Also, many Texans without health coverage are forced into emergency rooms for non-critical care because they have no access to family doctors. These non-critical cases drive up the cost of healthcare and tie up resources, which need be reserved for critical emergency room visits. Expanding coverage to more than two million uninsured Texans will allow families to access personal physicians for private health care needs and develop important patient - doctor relationships.

In addition to extending coverage to the uninsured, this legislation will allow current small business owners to renegotiate their premium plans with the insurance providers. Thus, this could lead to reductions in premium rates for thousands of currently insured working Texans.

I am working with my fellow Senators to help pass this common sense approach to providing affordable healthcare coverage. I believe that extending healthcare coverage to more Texans will improve both our state's standard of living and our economy.

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