Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Practical next moves for CEOs on Obamacare

A quick journey to your Trash email folder and a search of “Affordable Care Act” or “Obamacare” will likely return dozens, if not hundreds, of headlines and information and scare tactics pounded into your inbox on a daily basis from every corner of the business world.

And yet, only a few months away from the ACA’s “go-live” date, the uncertainty and complexity of the new system is giving everyone fits - insurance companies, service providers, brokers, attorneys, business owners, and CFOs alike.

Take a deep breath. No one knows what exactly is going to happen even still. We offer up the following as a starting point for you and your business, to prepare for when more tangible information is available.

There are several key questions every business owner and CEO needs to be thinking about:

- What is the total cost differential to my business under the current system versus a potential move to utilizing the state insurance exchanges (hard costs such as employer portion of premiums or contributions to employees under an exchange model, outside service providers costs, and soft costs like internal time spent to administer either model)?

- Who are the key people I need to retain in my company and how will the Affordable Care Act affect them from a price/quality standpoint?

- What Executive Benefits can I offer to key employees in a compliant manner?

- What other personalized benefits and perks do my employees appreciate and/or desire?

- Can I create an employee attraction and retention advantage as an employer in areas other than offering health insurance (compensation, culture, career path, training and development, flex hours, perks, etc.)?

- Do I understand where medical insurance ranks in job satisfaction and retention of my employees?

- Will the exchanges actually have better options and pricing for some or all of my employees?

Making your healthcare strategy a process rather than a transaction is the key to effectively communicating the situation to employees.
A big part of strategically managing your Human Capital is communications. Like a PR campaign, you have to constantly be messaging and shaping the public's (employees') view of events. If you don't, you can bet that someone else will be shaping the perceptions without a thought as to the ramifications for your company.

We recommend navigating Obamacare through continuous communication, specifically: 

- Surveying your entire employee base to gain real information on the connection, if any, between medical insurance (and employee benefits in general) and job satisfaction, as well as identifying why people stay, and what other benefits they’d be interested in that aren’t currently offered.

- Make healthcare premiums and general plan information on claims, changes, expectations, etc. a part of your regular communication throughout the year. Even if you only have a few months before your next renewal, much can be accomplished in just a few meetings and informal conversations.

- Bring your broker or HR partner to one of your employee communications meetings to speak about the state of healthcare and the renewal environment. Outside sources help give you credibility on the issue.
- Have a presentation of all the things you have done in the last three years handy, such as plan redesign, changing carriers, offering different options, etc. and refer to it often in meetings and informal conversations with employees. Employees tend not to remember changes if those changes didn't affect them specifically, so you may need to remind them of all that you have done.
- Have the numbers that show what the company portion of premiums and all related increases were over the past three years handy as well. It is essential to remind employees over and over that the increases to premiums cost the company far more than any single employee EVEN IF THE INCREASES ARE PASSED ALONG PROPORTIONALLY TO BOTH THE COMPANY AND EMPLOYEES because the company's portion is so much larger than the employees’. We particularly recommend describing the increase of the company portion of premiums in terms of jobs, as in "this $75,000 annual premium increase is the same as hiring two new employees in the shop..."
- Make articles and video clips regarding the state of healthcare readily available to all employees, either by posting or email. 
- In your meetings, allow employees to voice their concerns. Take the opportunity to join in as the company is typically paying more of the premiums (and any increases in premiums) than all of the employees put together. Remember that the facts are on your side, and you don't have to apologize for the state of healthcare premiums in America. 
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