What do we want? Value! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Transparency! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Quality! When do we want it? Now!

Employers — aka the  purchasers of health care — are now engaged in their health care and benefit strategies more than ever. And, when I say employers I’m not just speaking about the HR benefits administrators, I am speaking about Chief Finance Officers, Chief Operating Officers and Chief HR Officers.

For too many years, $100 million dollar-plus business decisions, called the health care benefit, have been pushed off by the C-Suite with distant oversight. According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, 36% of private companies say that health care is directly impacting the profit and growth of their business.

Now, you’ve got the attention of the business leaders. They want value, they want quality and they want a return on their investment.

What does this mean for the health care industry? Well, it’s time to actually compete for the employer’s business through innovation, customization and follow-through. What health vendors, brokers and consultants don’t want is for employers to take matters into their own hands. At that point you won’t be needed.

Employers really don’t want to have to become experts in health care, they’d prefer to be the experts in their respective industries and leave the health care business to the health care experts.

This dichotomy has been a long time coming. The one thing employers have been able to count on is higher costs to cover their employees, an increase in an unhealthy workforce, decrease in productivity, and no additional value for their dollar spent. Most, if not all, employers have contemplated “getting out of the game altogether,” but most of them do care about their employees and realize that offering competitive benefit offerings is essential to attracting and retaining good talent.

We have seen some very progressive moves from employers such as CalPERS, Disney and Sam’s Club — from reference-based pricing integrated into benefit design to direct contracting with providers and to installed wellness clinics. The Affordable Care Act has accelerated a lot of this demand for value, but it was inevitable. Those who have been trusted to advise this strategy have become complacent, have put employers into one big bucket and have forgotten the nuances that make each employer, in each market, somewhat unique. Employers are calling for more than cost sharing solutions. They want sustainable solutions that will help them remain competitive in an increasingly globally competitive environment.

This is a call to action for all brokers, consultants, health vendors, providers and health plans to step up in 2015 and bring your A Game. If not, employers will choose to become your competitors, and may just do a better job at it.

Brooks, MPM, PHR, is executive director of Pittsburgh Business Group on Health. Hear more from Brooks during her session, “How to Win with Preferred Clients,” at the Workplace Benefits Renaissance in Atlantic City on February 25. Reach her at jessica.brooks@pbghpa.com.

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