NU Online News Service, Sept. 19, 11:24 a.m. – The Texas Department of Insurance is trying to strengthen the state’s small-group health insurance market by supporting efforts to improve communications between carriers and small employers.

The Texas department began one communications initiative Wednesday, by holding the first in a series of nine health insurance fairs aimed at small employers.

At a fair held Wednesday in Austin, there was a “steady stream of small employers talking to carrier reps,” Texas department spokesman Lee Jones says.

The insurers and health maintenance organizations that have agreed to participate in the fairs wrote more than $1.3 billion in small employer health insurance premiums in 2001, the department says.

The department organized the fairs at the request of Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican.

Perry has also asked the department to help small employers shop for coverage by developing detailed small-group rate guides for specific Texas regions. The rate guide should be available later this fall.