A reassuring moment occurred at Tuesday’s CHRO panel discussion on “Benefits in a Time of Uncertainty” during the 15th annual HR Technology® Conference in Chicago.
To a person, every panelist — Artell Smith, CHRO at Aon Hewitt; Brian Johnson, executive vice president of HR at Fidelity Investments; Norbert Englert, CHRO at Mercer; Gail McKee, CHRO at Towers Watson; and Tom Maddison, corporate senior vice president and CHRO at Xerox Corp. — agreed their companies would not be casting their employees off, across the board, into healthcare exchanges under the impending healthcare-reform implementation.
And this despite prevailing research showing between 2 percent and 20 percent of employers are expecting to drop employer-sponsored benefits and release their employees to the exchange system come reform-enforcement time, said Mark Stelzner, principal and founder of Inflexion Advisors, and moderator of the HR Technology® Conference session.
Nevertheless, also to a person, panelists shared new strategies and approaches they’re taking to help their workers embrace the coming healthcare-change monsoon.
“My charge,” said Smith, “is to help employees see what they can take charge of in this uncertainty.”
Or, as Maddison agreed, “Uncertainty is an enabler of change.”
All discussed their slow-but-proven successes in consumer-driven-healthcare and health-savings-account initiatives. They also elaborated on some of the bumps in the roads.
Are employees ready for the added responsibilities in determining their own care, adopting healthier lifestyle choices and taking additional steps to reduce costs?
“Yes,” said McKee, “they are ready to take control of their care. We’re already seeing results in dropped emergency-room visits [and other indicators], but it takes time … and it takes identifying and going after those pockets of resistance [that emerge]. It has to evolve.”
Making the successful transition from top-down to employee-owned healthcare, here and abroad, will also require more energy on the part of employers in setting up action plans for each individual. “We need more energy around the specifics,” said Maddison.
Englert agreed: “The way people decide is usually not as rational as we would like. It’s not easy to get people to really spend the time to manage health and cost consequences. We can’t just say, ‘Here is it, go for it and good luck with it.’ We need to provide guidelines and pointers.”
Johnson concurred as well. “Anything we can do to ensure, simplify, personalize, streamline, use vehicles of education — such as role-modeling — that we’ve never used before,” he said, “we should be doing.”