December 2, 2023

Health Insurance

Follow Your Health Insurance

Commentary: Why this Seattle startup had to mess with Texas over healthcare

Glowforge CEO Dan Shapiro. (Glowforge Photo)

Editor’s note: This guest post was written by Glowforge CEO Dan Shapiro. Other companies such as Yelp, Salesforce, and Citigroup are also covering similar expenses in response to new abortion laws.

When I started Glowforge, I knew I’d learn a lot about lasers, but I never expected that I’d be researching state laws on abortion and trans healthcare.

Here we are, though.

Glowforge, like any respectable company, promises its employees healthcare with their jobs. Now, some states have outlawed providing that healthcare on their soil. So we’re going to do the only decent thing we can do: flying our people to safety so they can get the care they were promised. 

As of today, if you work at Glowforge and live in a state where abortion or gender-affirming care is banned, we will pay for your travel expenses to help you get that care in another state. Same goes for your family members.

And if you or your family member have an ongoing need for gender-affirming care (such as hormone therapy), but cannot legally receive it in your state, we will pay for you to relocate to another state where that healthcare is legal and available.

America is odd. As an artifact of World War Two, healthcare is mostly provided by employers. That means companies like Glowforge spend huge amounts of time and money planning for healthcare. It also means that as CEO, I’m charged not just with making 3D laser printers, but also with making healthcare decisions that impact our 200 employees.

“We cannot let state borders, posturing politicians, or the cost of an airplane ticket get in the way of that promise.”

(If you’re thinking about starting a company yourself, get ready to learn about reimbursement rates. Young Me would be disappointed to discover that Old Me knows more about out-of-network coinsurance than faster-than-light spaceships.)

We did the work, and our insurance is excellent. You don’t have to take my word for it — in 2015, we decided to publish insurance details our website. This saves job applicants the horror of having to ask a recruiter if their medical conditions are covered which, believe it or not, is what most companies do. But we’re proud of the insurance we provide, and we believe candidates should know about insurance before they interview.

Since we publish our insurance, employees choose our company specifically because of the benefits we provide. 

But as I write this today, states are making it illegal for us to provide the very services we promised. Dozens of states are moving to restrict or ban abortion. And many of those same states are now trying to criminalize gender-affirming healthcare for trans people

Since 2020, we’ve become a remote-first company. We’ve hired people in Texas and Oklahoma and Florida. We’ve promised them all equitable and fair healthcare, and now it falls to us to provide it. We cannot let state borders, posturing politicians, or the cost of an airplane ticket get in the way of that promise.

And as a side note — isn’t it strange that the governors who are loudest about making their states “business-friendly” are the ones making it harder for us to run our businesses?  Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, in effect, “we’ve decided to overrule the benefits plan you bought for your employees, and by the way, you’re going to need a new HR program tomorrow.”

This wasn’t a small project for us — our legal and HR team worked for two days around the clock to figure out what to do about it. How can we make sure our employees are safe? How can we fulfill our legal and moral obligations to every person on our team? How the heck do you categorize the expense of reimbursement for out-of-state healthcare travel without making the IRS angry?

And now we’ve got our plan. We checked it with the lawyers. We’re ready to take care of our people.

Want to take a shortcut? You got it. You can copy our homework. Email me at [email protected] and I’ll share with you our policy, so you can adopt it at your company, too. We may be among the first to do this, but I hope that soon we’ll be in lots of good company — like yours.