Commentary: Why this Seattle startup had to take on Texas over healthcare

Glowforge CEO Dan Shapiro. (Glowforge photo)

Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Dan Shapiro, CEO of Glowforge. Other companies like Yelp, Foreclosureand Citigroup are also covering similar costs in response to new abortion laws.

When I started Glowforge, I knew I would learn a lot about lasers, but I never expected to research state laws on abortion and trans health.

But here we are.

Like any reputable company, Glowforge promises its employees health with their work. Now some states have banned the provision of this healthcare on their soil. So we’re going to do the only decent thing we can do: fly our people to safety so they can get the supplies that were promised.

Starting today, if you work at Glowforge and live in a state that prohibits abortion or gender-affirming care, we will pay for your travel expenses to receive that care in another state. The same applies to your family members.

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

America is weird. An artifact of World War II, health care is primarily provided by employers. That means companies like Glowforge spend a lot of time and money on healthcare planning. It also means that as CEO, I’m not only involved in manufacturing 3D laser printers, but also making healthcare decisions that impact our 200 employees.

“We must not let national borders, bloated politicians or the cost of an airline ticket stand in the way of that promise.”

(If you’re thinking about starting your own business, get ready to read up on reimbursement rates. Young Me would be disappointed to discover that Old Me knows more about off-network coinsurance than light-speed starships.)

We did the work and our insurance is excellent. You don’t have to believe me – in 2015 we decided to publish insurance details on our website. This saves 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 offer, and we believe candidates should know something about insurance before interviewing.

Because we publish our insurance policies, employees choose our company specifically based on the benefits we offer.

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

Since 2020 we are a remote first company. We hired people in Texas, Oklahoma and Florida. We promised them all just and fair healthcare, and now it’s up to us to provide it. We must not allow national borders, bloated politicians, or the cost of an airline ticket to stand in the way of that promise.

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

This was no small project for us – our legal and HR departments worked around the clock for two days 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 each person on our team? How the heck do you categorize the cost of out-of-state health travel reimbursement without pissing off the IRS?

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

Wanna take a shortcut? You have it. You can copy our homework. Email me at [email protected] and I will share our policy with you so you can apply it to your business. We may be among the first to do so, but I hope to soon be in good company – like yours.

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