An interview with Jenny Cobb, Art Director
She Benefits, We Benefit
We realized that our health insurance policy was gender and age biased. We set out to figure out a better approach. The following interview chronicles the journey and how and why we decided to change our policy despite all the headaches and forms (lots of forms).
Interview by Brad Flowers
BF So, I thought everyone had health insurance policies that use algorithms to decide how much a person should pay for insurance?
JC Did you, now?
BF Well, yeah. I mean insurance companies make money by mitigating their risk. They use all available information to make it most likely that you will pay them more than they will have to pay a healthcare provider for you. Age and gender are factors I assume they would consider.
BF Okay, and I have benefitted from this arrangement. Is that what you are looking for?
JC I wasn’t exactly looking for it, but I am glad you see it.
BF Back to Bullhorn. We didn’t want this to be the case for us. What are the issues as you see them?
JC As a company we strive toward creating an equitable and fair environment. An employee pointed out that the cost of our insurance premiums was heavily biased against women. Specifically, women in certain age groups. She pointed out that by keeping our current health insurance, we would never have equitable pay because women would simply take home less than a man earning the exact same salary. For example, I was paying nearly five times more per month than male counterparts in my age range. The Affordable Care Act banned insurance companies from the practice of “gender rating,” the system by which insurance companies charge women more than men for the same coverage. We found that our own policy was not in line with the law.
BF How is that possible? Nevermind. That is a question for a different time. More to the point, what did we do about it?
JC Well, we revaluated. We discussed the issue as a group, committed to looking into other policies, and found another option for similar coverage that costs the same for every age and gender. We presented our findings to the company and made the decision to officially make the switch. Which was a little inconvenient. Now, co-pays are about $10 higher for everyone’s office visits. Some employees’ monthly payments have increased. We’ve all received new cards and have had to notify our providers of the change. But, there have also been huge benefits: Bullhorn saved money and our insurance deductions are closer to the standard. It’s a big move for us as a company.
BF How do you think the guys are going to take it when we break it to them that they are no longer going to benefit from this unfairness?
JC Personally, I don’t care what the guys think about losing their privilege. I think the more compelling thing here is: what does it mean to the office as a whole, and to the women who are finally seeing and receiving fair treatment, and to those who have paid the absurdly high cost.
BF I agree. How has this change made a difference to the office?
JC Well, overall it’s been an excellent testament to us checking our privilege. We’ve had good insurance, offered it to all employees, etc. We were doing a lot of things right. But, there was still persisting inequality. And healthcare is a complex, at times miserable, part of running a company. It would’ve been easier to just keep the policy we had, even though it was heavily unfair, and say “that’s just the way things are.” But, we didn’t. We worked for almost a year to land on a solution that was in line with what we believe.
BF And what has it meant to you and the other women in the office?
JC Well, I asked them. And we all agree that it’s really important that the switch took place. It shows a level of commitment toward not only talking the talk, but walking the walk. That as a company, we’re committed to finding equitable solutions to ever-present systematic sexism. And on a personal level, it’s been a learning moment for me that I need to pay closer attention to the policies that affect me and speak up. I, like many, thought that inequality was unavoidable. But, it wasn’t. Next time, I’ll know to question the status quo. And recognize that Bullhorn is the kind of place that runs on dissatisfaction and improvement and is up for the challenge to change.