Published on : January 15, 2014
Corporate Wellness and Individual Knowledge: Empowering and Educating Workers About Health Insurance Reform
Amidst the debates, analyses, proposals and counteroffers, the multitude of conflicting reports and differing economic opinions, amidst the most important social and political event of the last 50-years, with the exception of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 -- with all these forces combined in a whirlwind of heated rhetoric, confusion and anxiety, corporate wellness is now a priority of the highest order.
For, this issue is part of the broader "conversation" involving health insurance reform, implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the launch (and repair, and re-launch) of HealthCare.Gov, the official online portal to purchase insurance from a public exchange. In a word, this undertaking is massive.
Every company has a stake in this matter because corporate wellness, in theory and practice, is more than an attempt to offer more nutritional meals from an in-house cafeteria or subsidize exercise classes at a nearby fitness center. Those things are admirable and almost obligatory, but they are not equal - in cost, morale and job retention - to the wholesale transformation of 17.2% of the national economy.
Balance and Clarity: Applying Order to a Dynamic Series of Events
Defined by these factors, corporate wellness is a metaphor for how companies respond to this new environment. Imagine a situation where complexity abounds - in which some insurers have summarily dropped customers, others have just as suddenly raised premiums, while still more have added restrictions to existing policies - and, through this regulatory thicket, everyone seeks the same thing: Guidance.
It is that very guidance that can restore balance to an extremely volatile situation. And, through the insight and wisdom of experienced insurance brokers, companies can focus on the spirit and letter of the words "health insurance reform," for the good of their respective workers and the furtherance of corporate wellness.
Please note: I write issue this conclusion without any political malice - I come neither to celebrate nor condemn the Act - because, in my role as the Founder of Lookout Alliance, Inc., which is a group of insurance brokers representing all eligible citizens nationwide, I believe knowledge is the key to health insurance reform and corporate wellness.
By the latter, I mean the words in their totality. As described above, I envision a workplace where employees are physically healthy - aided by programs, which promote the benefits of a sound diet and a strong body - and morale is high, furthering an atmosphere of camaraderie and shared values. The most effective way to begin that process - to earn the goodwill of workers by displaying the good faith of employers - is with quality health insurance.
That goal is one of the most crucial assignments a company may ever face. The issue is not one of cost, but a subject of conscience. Meaning: Many companies need a flexible alternative to the Act because the plans on HealthCare.Gov are either too expensive or irrelevant to the particular needs of particular companies, in particular industries.
So, I congratulate the architects of the Act for making reform a national priority, but companies should know - and this is where information and clarity reign supreme - that there is a robust and competitive world of private exchanges for the purchase of health insurance.
The private exchanges, complemented by the counsel of an experienced broker or team of brokers, are also models of experimentation and innovation; they seek to accommodate the interests of employers, while making insurance affordable without compromising quality of care. The distinction here, and it is an important one for establishing a culture of corporate wellness, is the ability to work with a broker to identify or customize a plan based on existing facts, not the imposition of a one-size-fits-all (which, in truth, fits only a few) model for all businesses.
Let Customization Prevail: The Roots of Lasting Health Insurance Reform
Remember, companies differ in all manner of ways - in reach, revenues, profits, philosophy, management and expectations - and those differences translate into different approaches to honoring the requirements of the Act. Again, I acknowledge the government's involvement in making this topic a matter of individual and collective necessity, but I also believe that education - by giving employers and employees all the facts (about suitable health insurance plans) - is the true foundation of reform.
My advice is, therefore, straightforward: Have an experiencedbroker, someone who understands the intricacies of the law and is aware of the exchanges available in the state where a company does business, educate employees about their options. The overarching theme is the union between transparency of information and accessibility to the individual - the broker or team of brokers - with the ability to make this material intelligible.
Bottom line: Corporate wellness is an unfulfilled ambition, an empty slogan and a shopworn phrase, unless brokers add substance to this motto. Indeed, make the motto a mission -- and good health (and smart health insurance reform) will ensue, as a matter of course.
Therein lies the purpose of health insurance reform, the rise of private exchanges and the ideal description of leadership: To be a voice of clarity and conviction, inspiring people - employers and employers, the joint architects of corporate wellness - to find the right solution for their respective needs. If brokers uphold that duty, and we have a vested stake (by reputation and pure ethics) to do so, then innovation can flourish, savings can accrue and the hope of positive change can be a reality.
I finish where I began, with an emphasis on communication, education and choice. Each variable begets the other: The clarity of a message begets greater knowledge of competing systems, which begets the freedom to choose the right solution.
Let this mission be our summons to action. Let this endeavor be a lasting testament to honoring the law by honoring ourselves, in health and duty. We shall succeed.
About the Author
Frank Welsh, Sr. is the President of Lookout Alliance, Inc., a group of insurance brokers that represents all eligible candidates nationwide. This family based company has been devoted to giving their clients honest and trustworthy information with supreme service for the last 17 years. For more information visit the Lookout Alliance website here.