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Rapid Rewards
By: Curry Cooksey

During open enrollment, the State Bar of Texas proved it can be flexible and move quickly to provide its members with the best insurance options and support. 

Trying to understand health insurance options can be a daunting task. Rapid changes in the market haven’t made it any easier. During the 2016 open enrollment period, many Texas lawyers experienced increased premiums, limited coverage, or even the cancellation of their policies. Thankfully, the State Bar of Texas was able to help provide its members with practical options as part of its Insurance/Member Benefits Program.

The State Bar’s efforts to help its members secure quality health insurance coverage dates back to 1948. This pursuit led to the formation of an insurance trust and, recently, an insurance exchange. The insurance exchange is a service that State Bar members can truly call their own and actively shape the future of.

In 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act instituted huge changes to the insurance market, leaving many scrambling to find replacement coverage. Knowing that members faced dramatic market changes and a dearth of quality insurance options, State Bar leaders were determined to help.

State Bar staff members began working under the guidance of the Insurance/Member Benefits Subcommittee of the State Bar Board of Directors to find solutions. Between 2010 and 2013, the subcommittee spent considerable time and effort understanding the demand for health insurance and the options available. Through membership surveys and evaluations of an array of models offered across the country by third-party administrators and health insurance carriers, the subcommittee determined that the best solution would be for the State Bar of Texas to form its own private health insurance exchange. Member Benefits Inc. was selected to create and administer the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange.

The insurance exchange proves it is possible to offer superior service that makes understanding insurance options painless and provide access to unique (and often discounted) ancillary insurance products not available anywhere else. “I practiced law for 25 years and have dealt with lots of folks in the health insurance world,” said Griffin Vincent of Houston. “My benefits counselor was one of the best at explaining things in a digestible fashion. He had a great gift for making the complex understandable.”

Through the exchange, Texas attorneys can help mold and control the products they are offered as well as demand the service they expect. The exchange provides a two-tiered level of advocacy comprised of the concierge-level service offered by the licensed benefit counselors at Member Benefits Inc. and support from State Bar staff and volunteer leaders. “My experience in selecting health insurance was very positive,” said Kathy Bankhead of Dallas. “I hope the State Bar realizes what an amazing team it has and what an important role benefit counselors are playing by helping their customers.”

The exchange was launched on November 1, 2013, as the exclusive one-stop insurance marketplace for Texas attorneys, their spouses, and employees, as well as paralegals and law students. The exchange is available for individuals and employer groups and offers a variety of insurance products.

The exchange was put to the test during a turbulent 2016 open enrollment period when a major Texas carrier eliminated all of its PPO plans statewide. The subcommittee responded quickly by initiating weekly teleconferences to monitor and discuss options. Many hours were spent to ensure members could still get the providers and hospitals they needed. Updates included:

          Six additional small- and regional-based options to provide more PPO options and a broader level of choice;
          Small group PPO plans for qualifying employer groups.

In addition, another major carrier extended a comparable PPO plan to all Texas counties late during the open enrollment period. The exchange was the first to offer the product electronically on the same day it was released.

Since 2014, the exchange has more than doubled, growing by approximately 7,383 active product enrollments to more than 16,200 active product enrollments today. Individual major medical enrollments alone have increased nine-fold, from 521 to just under 5,000 enrollments.

Based on the 2016 open enrollment and suggestions from members, the subcommittee has begun preparing for 2017 by expanding offerings and enhancing technology.

The Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange will continue to evolve based on the needs of the members and the insurance market. The subcommittee is dedicated to finding the best options and benefits.

To learn more about the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange, go to or call a licensed benefit counselor at (800) 282-8626. To give feedback about the exchange, contact Cory Squires.

Curry Cooksey, a partner in Cooksey & Marcin in The Woodlands, has extensive trial and appellate experience in federal and state courts throughout Texas. Certified in personal injury trial law and civil trail law by the Texas Board of Legal Specializations, he focuses on healthcare law, personal injury, and medical malpractice defense. Cooksey is a board member of the Texas Association of Defense Counsel, an associate of the American Board of Trial Advocates, and a life fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors and the chair of the State Bar of Texas Insurance/Member Benefits Subcommittee.


Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.

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