HealthLeaders-InterStudy, a leading provider of managed care market intelligence, reports that five Texas urban areas -- Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Galveston and Houston -- have made various levels of progress toward forming health benefit pools authorized last year by the Texas legislature. According to the latest Texas Health Plan Analysis, these three-share health benefits programs are designed to provide coverage access to small businesses who feel they have been priced out of the healthcare market.
"Three-share programs split healthcare premium expenses between an employer, the employee and another source, such as the public sector, grant money or hospital disproportionate share dollars," states Bill Melville, market analyst for HealthLeaders-InterStudy and author of the report. "Each city also operates their programs independently, but all five groups work as a coalition for planning, sharing ideas and seeking out grant money from the state."
In Galveston, the first countywide health benefits plan is close to enrolling its inaugural members. The smallest of the five counties leads the pack due to grants and the apparatus of the University of Texas Medical Branch's HMO, a Medicare supplement plan. The Galveston County three-share effort will use that system to enroll between 500 and 700 people for a two- year period and will target businesses employing two to 49 people.
Austin will likely launch next, with a more ambitious goal of enrolling 10,000 Central Texans in the next three years and it will feature a two-share and a three-share program. In Houston, the Harris County Healthcare Alliance, bolstered by the region's hospitals, is seeking to institute a three-share pilot of 5,000 people over a three-year period. And lastly, Dallas County's program took a major step late last year with the endorsement of the Parkland Hospital System's Board of Directors and is working to secure the support of other major local hospital systems.
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