When Kelso Vernor founded Vernor Materials and Equipment in 1958 in Freeport, Texas, he made a commitment to his family, his employees — many of whom were family — and to his customers to provide excellent service with unquestioned integrity at competitive prices.
Over the past 63 years, a lot has changed, but our commitment to those core values has not.
While our business has expanded to more than 200 employees, we still view them as part of the family. As the chief administrative officer and secretary of the board, a major part of my job is ensuring employees receive the best healthcare at a rate that keeps our prices affordable.
But with our headquarters 50 miles outside of Houston, we are limited in our healthcare options. That’s why we are a self-insured company and negotiate healthcare contracts and rates with providers directly, whether that’s hospitals, local physicians, emergency centers or dentist offices.
I’ve always appreciated Texas’ business-friendly approach. So, as I negotiate these deals, it surprises me to see some of the rules that currently limit our options and stifle provider expansion. Our healthcare laws must adapt to the changing needs of our state and allow more options for care, not fewer. House Bill 472 by state Rep. James White, R-Hillister, offers businesses like Vernor the flexibility to keep costs down by allowing Freestanding ERs to offer non-emergent care at non-ER rates in addition to the great emergency care they already provide.
This bill is an example of efficiency at its best. It’s like combining ER and urgent care into one building. Businesses in every industry, including healthcare, have adopted this efficiency strategy. Take Walmart Supercenters, for example, where you can get groceries, household items, tire changes and manicures — all under one roof.
Why shouldn’t we be able to go to a Freestanding ER for a cold, which isn’t an emergency, be seen by a doctor, and be billed at an urgent care rate? Especially in areas where healthcare options are limited, this would give Texans a high-quality resource for care nearby instead of 50 miles away. It’s the free market at its best, adapting to consumer demands.
My company currently contracts with a local Freestanding ER in Lake Jackson. They are wonderful to work with and have taken excellent care of my employees. I would not hesitate to secure non-ER services at non-ER rates there for our team members. In fact, it’s frustrating to be blocked from doing that by state rules that seem inefficient and burdensome.
Legislation like HB 472 will allow me to consolidate our drug testing, our workers comp claims and our emergency care to one stop and avoid having to direct my employees to several locations.
It will be a win for my employees, who would get high-quality care at a one-stop location, and it’s a win for companies like mine that need flexibility to keep costs down and appreciate convenience.
More healthcare options is good for patients, good for business and good for Texas. Time is running out. As this legislative session comes to a close, I urge lawmakers to prioritize legislation and language to expand healthcare for Texans.