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Published on : March 03, 2012

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I’ll be honest with you; I am scared for our industry.  It is hardly a secret that the employee benefits industry is disorganized.  Sadly, things don’t seem to be moving in a positive direction.

Healthcare Reform has created a lot of confusion.  This confusion has caused many people to lose focus on core activities they really ought to be to paying sharp attention to.  Nowadays it seems that there isn’t as much of an emphasis on formal training as there used to be.  I was dismayed to discover that most insurance companies invest next to nothing in training their sales force.  In fact, employers throughout the industry have significantly cut back on the education/training of HR.   Is there a logical reason why we no longer invest in the education and professional development of our future employees?

If employers continue the short-sighted trend of defunding employee training/education, things are likely headed in an ugly direction. 

Many of the problems that we experience today are due to two factors:

  1. Economic Crisis (putting pressure on employers bottom lines), and
  2. Healthcare Cost Increases

One issue that has emerged is that people – for one reason or another – have become less likely to work together; and in some cases, there are serious “turf wars” going on.

Why won’t the trade associations work together? Why is it that insurers, agents, and employer associations are all trying to protect their turf instead of collaborating together to find mutually beneficial solutions?  Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution showed us that we need to evolve – or adapt – in order to survive. Businesses can’t survive by burying their heads in the sand; and this goes double for companies that cannot be dishonest with their consumers and/or the public. By collaborating with each other, we will be more likely to find innovative solutions to our collective problems. By pooling our resources and advocating together with one voice, we will be much more likely to survive rough economic times like the one which we are experiencing today.

I was on the phone yesterday with a colleague in the healthcare industry where the issue of “turf” protection was raised. I was told that unless things change that the future of healthcare will be that of employers fighting with health insurers.

Why do health insurers feel threatened by cost transparency companies and the services they offer? Why are some insurers refusing to provide medical claims experience to employers?  Why are insurers going so far as to charge employers for this data when huge swaths of employers feel that they own the data and have a right to access said data?

I am told that insurers are taking these actions because they are trying to internally create their own business units that compete with the cost transparency companies. Is it just me, or is there something really wrong going on here? 

When trade associations refuse to communicate or work together and when employers/insurers are taking on adversarial positions, it is not a profound thing to say that our industry’s future is not looking as bright as it could/should.