My mom has her own architecture practice and my dad started a software company. I could follow the floor plans – cloud computing, not so much. Unfortunately, using literal clouds as a visual aid is little help to an adolescent. It never really occurred to me the magnitude of what they were shouldering. We expect small business owners to solve complex problems, provide new jobs for the economy, and compete on an increasingly global stage – and then we ask them to provide comprehensive health care for their employees and their families.
I like to think of myself as a history buff. Or someone that enjoys long, tedious books about the past. One of my favorite aspects is discovering how much of our world can be traced back to seemingly benign decisions. Health care in the United States is a great example. World War II -sparked inflation in the United States and due to nationwide limits on raising employee wages, companies had to look for other ways to recruit and compensate their work force – so they turned to health benefits. Today, employers help pay for health care for well over 150M people in the United States, and ironically, this started because of the economic impact of war.
I think this begs the question: in what ways are employers inherently prepared to help people with their health care? I think the answer is that they often are not. For decades the prevailing goal for corporations was to maximize profits and deliver greater returns to shareholders, and this is not always aligned with helping employees find the best health care for their needs. Employers are not to blame. Health care, along with its less popular but equally important counterpart, health insurance, are ridiculously complicated and far outside the core competency of many business owners. Why should business owners and managers have to run a health care company, too?
The more I dove into the wide world of health care, the more it seemed like my days in wealth management. Here is a product and an industry with an incredibly personal connection, that influences our life on a daily basis, yet is littered with oversimplified remedies and quick fixes. Health and wealth: two areas in which the average person is not exactly prepared to make well informed, long-term decisions. So, what do we do? We turn to professionals for help (as we should!). In finance there is the wealth advisor, in health care there is the benefits broker. These individuals, who are very much cut from the same cloth, have an indelible impact on two of the largest industries in our economy and on how we make our most important decisions.
If I have learned one thing over the past 12 months, it is that there is a better way to manage health benefits.