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Austin startup bringing affordable healthcare to small businesses

As people look to secure healthcare coverage for next year, this Austin startup has found a way to make healthcare coverage affordable for small businesses.

AUSTIN, Texas — Even during the pandemic, Austin continues to grow as a hub for technology firms and startup businesses.

Small businesses though have a tough time providing health insurance for their employees. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, less than one-third of U.S. businesses with fewer than 50 employees offer health insurance to their employees. A new Austin startup is changing that.

When you're building a company from scratch, there's a lot to consider.

Alex Blum is the founder of Applied Bioplastics, an Austin startup that is changing how plastics are manufactured using plant-based materials.

“The product itself reduces the CO2 emitted when manufacturing plastic items by 43%," Blum told KVUE. "And if we're able to use recycled feedstock, that number jumps to 97%. It looks just like this here."

Blum and his partner started adding employees they knew needed healthcare.

“We started researching our options and there's the usual big guys out there and they're exorbitantly expensive," said Blum. "There's the Affordable Care Act, which isn't as affordable as I think we would all like it to be. And then there was Decent and it was so weird seeing a company that offered the kind of coverage for the price that they did.”

Blum found another Austin startup called Decent. It offers quality healthcare at affordable prices. Instead of paying thousands every month, Blum now pays hundreds.

“A self-employed person who makes $50,000 a year or more is not going to qualify for a dollar of government subsidies. So, we're probably going to be the most affordable option for that person offered by a wide margin,” said Decent founder Nick Soman.

Soman started Decent seeing the need for smaller companies like his own to offer health insurance for their employees.

Here's how it works: small companies that share an industry are grouped together, giving them the scale to negotiate better rates and build custom health insurance plans.

“You can't self insure when you're a group of one," said Soman. "So, what has to be true for us to pool these communities of people together who all want more affordable coverage and give them ACA compliant, high-quality health insurance for 40% less than market rates? And that's what we've done at Decent.”

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“They've made it possible for four business owners like me and others to pool our resources like we are a big corporation and get coverage that's affordable for all of us,” said Blum, who had no idea how much he would need it. “I have bilateral avascular necrosis, which means there's not enough blood getting to the tips of my femurs. That resulted in bone loss and I started falling shortly after I signed up for Decent.”

Blum ended up needing hip replacement surgery.

“They work with me to help me find ways to find the right specialists," Blum said. "Even if it's not covered. They do their absolute darndest to make it happen. And it's just different from any insurance company that I've ever, ever worked with. And I just really appreciate them for that.”

Blum is doing great now and so is his company.

Two Austin startups with big plans and already making a difference.

Decent was offering healthcare for the self-employed with great success but recently had to stop. The Texas Department of Insurance let the company know that due to the unresolved status of an ongoing federal court case from 2018 that does not involve Decent, it needed to stop. The hope is with some help from lawmakers, that can resume soon.

You can learn more about the plans Decent offers here. And learn more about Applied Bioplastics company here.

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