“Change either energizes or paralyzes.” I have heard this more than 100 times in the past two years. Literally. It is part of the voiceover in the introduction to each week’s ShiftShapers podcast. I wrote the copy nearly two years ago and haven’t thought much about it since then. But it has always been there, just as change itself has.
Like so many other things in life though, change is often a study in contrasts. Let’s look at the energizing aspect first. As many of you know, I recently relocated to my home state of Massachusetts. Last week I attended a meeting of the New England Employee Benefits Council where health plan executives were questioned by a select panel of members.
In and of itself that might not be notable. Many such meetings have been taking place amidst the transformational turmoil in our industry. What struck me as I walked in the room, before a single question was asked or answered, was that there were nine chairs at the table where those executives would assemble. Nine! If you invited all of the carriers in your state, how many chairs would you need?
What may be more remarkable — and frankly, hopeful — is that this assemblage was in a state that nearly invented transformational health system change in 2006. Known colloquially as “RomneyCare,” it mandated that residents of the Commonwealth have a minimum acceptable level of insurance, provided free health care insurance for residents earning less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level and mandated employers with more than 10 FTEs to provide health care insurance. Sound familiar?
Amidst change that some believe presaged PPACA, there is choice. Carriers are taking different approaches to the market and innovation still exists. To be sure, there are differences between a small New England state and the nationwide reach of PPACA, but there is opportunity. It’s the “energizes vs. paralyzes” conversation.
Interestingly, change is not always in the places you might expect. Many who listened to our recent podcast conversation with Jessica Waltman wrote to tell me how surprised they were at her laser-like analysis that the employer- based health care system might not be safe from … wait for it … Republicans! It is all about change, but it is often difficult because it causes us to reassess and reevaluate the landscape.
Such is the case with the “paralyzes” part of the conversation, too. In the past weeks and months I have been the recipient of calls and emails from friends and colleagues who were confused and angry at a number or carriers that have decided to stop paying commission on some lines of business. “They can’t do that!” “They need us!” “This will kill the market!” Well, yes they can, no they don’t and no, it won’t. But there is energizing news hiding in plain sight. If the carriers believe they have found other distribution channels, prospects and clients need your expertise and advice more than ever.
Now, the difficult part … the “choice” part. You can allow this change to paralyze you and turn your business into a dinosaur, or you can use it to energize you to create new business models where clients pay for your expertise and your time.
Still don’t think consumers need you? Google the spate of recent surveys and studies that continue to evidence that consumers don’t know the difference between their co-pay and their coinsurance. Someone has to help them. No one is better positioned to take on that role than you.
The best way to predict your future is to create it. If your state won’t let you charge fees, then get together and change the laws or regulations. Petition your national associations to create model legislation or draft regulations that you can use to advance your cause. In many states, that prohibition is based on old anti-rebating thinking. But if you aren’t being paid a commission, what is being rebated?
On which precept are you going to build your base for today’s environment: energize or paralyze?
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