I’ve been presenting about health care reform (as any good adviser would) to many different groups, ranging from HR executives to CFOs to business owners. Rather than blog about the impact of reform on the benefits business, here are some reflections on what is happening at these presentations:

1)    Engagement is high. For folks who present a lot there seems to always be a nagging doubt whether anyone will listen to what you have to say. Perhaps one of the unintended consequences of reform is that individuals have been very engaged in the discussion. Not surprisingly, engagement varies from complete disdain with reform to complete acceptance of the bill. Overall, the individuals who I’ve presented too are taking an “active, not-ready-to-do-anything yet” perspective on reform. I’ve encouraged my audiences to do three things: 1) understand how reform will impact your company specifically; 2) complete the financial analysis as you consider “paying” rather than “playing;” and 3) start to build a post-reform benefits strategy. The third one is the most difficult for sure, but I believe a must for companies.

2)    Industry segment matters. Inevitably some industry segments will be impacted by reform more than others, especially when it comes to dropping plans all together. One large contractor told me and I paraphrase, “as soon as one of our peers drop their plan, we’ll be next in line. No one in this area wants to be first, but many want to be first to be second.” Whereas one of my presentations was to HR executives in the non-profit sector and they collectively had a very different take on staying in the game and how important benefits are to their employees. Many of the attendees started their points with comments like this, “we understand the financial discussion (to drop our plans), but there is more to it than just numbers for our organization.” Point is – know your client and understand the industry segment.

3)    A lot of Misinformation. Perhaps this is obvious and goes without saying, but it really is surprising the amount of misinformation out there about the bill. I find that most of the misunderstanding of the reform bill has a great deal to do with the current political climate and discourse. Each party is dictating their key points about health care reform into the general public (as any good political party would) and this only encourages more misinformation. My reflection here – advisers have a roll to educate and clarify what the bill does and doesn’t do.

I’ve received interesting feedback about how I approach this topic and in return I have a better understanding of what companies need in the backdrop of reform. Companies need benefits consultants and advisers to encourage them to understand the information about the bill, do the analysis for their company, and start to build a post-reform benefits strategy. Ultimately, I would argue that our goal is to help clients attract, engage, and retain employees – or effectively manage their human capital and talent. Perhaps this changes our value stream to our clients – if so I believe we are on the right path.

Lacher, CIC, leads the Employee Benefits and Consulting divisions of Lacher & Associates, a second-generation firm located outside Philadelphia. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkLacher and @Lacherinsurance.

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