Last month, I was out on leave for a couple of weeks after reconstructive knee surgery. Since I was largely on bed rest, I was not able to drive, do chores or take care of my two little boys. I had some time on my hands for the first time in a long time, and filled it with some unexpected insights.

I'd like to say I started writing the next Great American Novel, or at least balanced my checkbooks. What I really did was watch a lot of TV. Amid the unrelenting onslaught of political commercials, I noticed an uptick in ads from health care providers and insurance carriers. From Allison Janney's plugs for Kaiser Permanente to Cigna's "Go You!" campaign celebrating individuality (a foreshadowing of individual coverage purchased on exchanges?), it's refreshing to see a move toward a more mainstream, open-market approach to health care consumerism. Not long ago I was at an industry conference listening to a speaker complain that health insurers don't have much need to advertise. Unlike, say, the car insurance industry.

Whatever your opinion of health reform, it is partly responsible for breathing life into this move toward a more consumer-centric view of health insurance options. It outlined the framework in which carriers will be competing hard on new purchasing platforms, which generates questions from consumers. And, let's hope, conversations that will lead to solutions.

Another thing I did with my free time was Google some inspirational quotes to share with my over-burdened spouse. I came across this quote on optimism from author Richard Rodriguez, 68: "I do not believe an old man's pessimism is necessarily truer than a young man's optimism simply because it comes after. There are things a young man knows that are true and are not yet in the old man's power to recollect."

The quote got me thinking about the state of the profession, and EBA's Rising Stars in Advising  in particular. I've met several vets in the process of selling their businesses. When asked what he'd say to a young person just entering the industry, one even quipped, "Are you out of your mind?"

But the Rising Stars, all age 40 and younger, know an opportunity when they see one. As veterans leave, Rebecca Purdy, 35, of Distinctive Insurance in Las Vegas, sees the door wide open behind them. "We are starting to see relationships that have been untouchable for years and years suddenly become accessible," she says.

Mike Ripley, 26, of Old National Insurance in Fort Wayne, Ind., adds, "As a new person with no preconceived notions, you can bring new life to an industry that is in the middle of one of the biggest changes since ERISA."

When in one room for a long time, it's easy not to notice how stifling the air has become. That's what makes it so refreshing once you crack a window.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit Adviser content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access