July 4, 2020

You’re the Boss Blog: For Business Owners, the Health Care Details Begin to Emerge

Staying Alive

The struggles of a business trying to survive.

Last week, before the election, I received a fat envelope from Independence Blue Cross with our health insurance renewal rates for 2013. This happens about this time each fall, and it is not something I look forward to.

I’ve had a couple of good years — my rates fell in 2010 and 2011 — but this was preceded by a long string of years with double-digit increases. Which is discouraging, because the astronomic rise in costs wasn’t accompanied by any apparent rise in the quality of the health care we have been getting. Co-pays have gone up. Drugs have gotten more expensive. At the doctor’s office they still hand me that stupid clipboard with the paper questionnaire to fill out, then they make me wait another 30 minutes to see the doctor. Most problematic, in my opinion: I still can’t find a price list for any of the doctor’s routine services. So I have no way to compare the costs.

I open the envelope, wade through the pages of boilerplate and finally get to the heart of the matter. For the third year in a row, my rates have dropped. It’s not a huge amount, about 5 percent, but it’s better than another increase. The monthly charge for a single person has dropped from $330.89 to $315.23, and the rate for family coverage fell from $971.26 a month to $925.31. To put this in perspective, here are the rates for my cheapest policy options for the last seven years:


The drop from the peak in 2010 is significant, but I’m still paying 50 percent more for insurance that I was in 2005.

The envelope from Blue Cross was followed by an e-mail from our benefits administrator, with a spreadsheet attached that recapped all of the pricing information and added a whole lot more. Most of it was procedural, laying out the steps required for me to renew the policies for all my workers. But one of the tabs in the sheet was titled “Health Care Reform” and laid out all of the ways that the Affordable Care Act — a k a Obamacare — would be changing the landscape. It’s a long list, sorted by date, and progressing from now until the date of full implementation in 2014. This item in particular caught my eye:

“Effective March 2013: Employers must provide a new notice to all employees explaining the availability of Exchanges and whether or not the employee may be eligible for insurance affordability programs through the Exchange. The notice must be provided to new employees upon date of hire. Guidance is pending.”

Scrolling further down the page, there was more:

“Effective January 1 2014: All U.S. citizens and legal residents must maintain ‘minimum essential coverage.’ Failure to obtain minimum essential coverage will result in financial penalties for groups with more than 50 employees. Some exceptions apply.”

And effective the same date, this:

“Health insurance will be available for purchase through the exchanges. Private and nonprofit insurers as well as states will offer small employers (up to 100 employees) the ability to purchase health insurance. Large employers (more than 100 employees) may purchase coverage through the exchanges beginning in 2017. Employers will not be required to purchase coverage through an exchange.”

Ah, the crux of the matter. Within a year I’ll have some idea of what it will save me (and cost my employees) to stop providing health insurance. I’ll have the option to let my workers get their own coverage, just the same way they get car and house insurance. I have not made up my mind whether this is a good idea or not, but soon I’ll have some real numbers to think about.

With President Obama’s re-election, the Affordable Care Act will be fully implemented. I voted for him, twice, partially in hope that something would be done about the health care mess. So this is what I get.

How about you? What has happened to your rates? What are you finding in your renewal packages? What do the health care changes mean for your company?

Paul Downs founded Paul Downs Cabinetmakers in 1986. It is based outside Philadelphia.

Article source: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/for-business-owners-the-health-care-details-begin-to-emerge/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Corner Office: John W. Rowe: A Sitting Duck Can’t Catch a Moving Turkey

Q. Talk about some important leadership insights you’ve gained through the years.

A. We can talk about how people follow directions. Heading a large company, I could probably decree a dress code in great precision. And while it would cause riot and insurrection, most employees would in fact obey. But on the other hand, you tell your employees you want to make the company greener while keeping your focus keenly on the bottom line — that’s all too amorphous. They think you only mean one or only mean the other. It turns out that you can give orders far more easily if they’re very detailed and precise. But telling people that this direction is really important takes a whole lot of work to get people to follow it and implement it. And so I’ve learned the importance of conveying a clear direction and the need to reinforce it, day in and day out, in what you do, whom you promote, whom you give bonuses to, what’s rewarded.

Communication is one of the most difficult things. In my first C.E.O. job, a young woman who worked for me walked in one day and said, “Do you know that the gossip in the office is that the way for a woman to get ahead is to wear frilly spring dresses?”

And I just looked at her and asked, “Where did this come from?”

She said: “Well, you said, ‘pretty dress’ to four women who happened to be dressed that way. And so now it’s considered policy.”

I said: “Well, it’s the furthest thing in the world from policy. I was just trying to be pleasant in the elevator.”

People hang on a leader’s every word on what seems like trivia and can resist like badgers your words when you’re really trying to say something you think is important.

Q. Why is that?

A. It’s human nature to be more comfortable with very clear instructions than with general ones. Hard things are hard. I mean, there is no simple detailed instruction when you’re dealing with things that are complex and fuzzy, or when you’re dealing with two or three important trade-offs.

Q. What were some leadership lessons for you growing up?

A. I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin with Depression-era farming parents. And there’s just no doubt that the work ethic that they instilled is just a huge part of it. My father believed you should work most of the time and my mother couldn’t quite see why he inserted “most.” There’s just a huge influence of growing up with two people who believed so much in work, duty, responsibility.

I also had bosses on my way up who taught me key lessons: One is how important action is — to always be looking for something to do that moves the ball. Don’t sit still. My aphorism for it is, better a moving turkey than a sitting duck. If you’re just standing still, whatever you’re doing is going to get shot apart. I also learned that you have to act on the best information you have, and to not wait for the nonexistent perfect level of information.

Q. What about some lessons on how you deal with people?

A. The first thing I try to do is use simple things, like the company vision statement. In an almost papal way, I will say: “Look, everything we do is complicated. But these things are basic.” And I’ll say to a group, “I can tell you what every word in this document means.” It’s important to explain to employees that these principles really do impact how we function in our business. And by papal I mean not so much the red shoes, but you recite the creed. And you try to convince people that you believe the creed. Because you can’t actually influence 17,000 to 18,000 people on a personal basis, day to day. So that’s one thing I try to do.

I can look at people and say, “Here’s how each one of these lines affects something we do in our business.” And I’ll point out that most of what’s in the creed would be the same for most other utilities. The real difference is we believe them more deeply. At least I do.

Q. How else do you make the creed stick, rather than just becoming a poster on the wall?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=e2f37af745b71e676e701fa45adf0020