To improve healthcare, employers must move beyond the bottom line

WASHINGTON — When Mark Ganz, president and CEO of Cambia Health — a nonprofit healthcare company — took to the stage at the National Business Group on Health’s annual conference, he had a message for the benefits managers in the audience: Pay more attention to employees, and less to the bottom line.

“It’s worth observing how little we talk about the people that we serve, and how little curiosity we have for what they long for,” Ganz said. “What I do hear a lot is what we want to get them to do or how we can save money.”

This sales-oriented mindset can be frustrating for employees and often results in a greater disconnect between people and the healthcare industry, he said. Indeed, only 53% of people trust the U.S. healthcare system, according to a poll by Healthpopuli.com.

To help with this, employers should offer the correct mix of benefits, educate employees on available offerings, and help guide workers to the right offerings so they can make better decisions, Ganz said.

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Ganz showed a video of everyday people being questioned on the street about choosing healthcare. It was clear that many did not understand what was being offered to them, and that they were overly reliant on employers to make the right choices for them.

“I was struck not by what they say, but by the passion with which they say it,” Ganz said. “They are crying out. They believe this is possible. Based on every other experience in their lives, they believe that healthcare can be better.”

Echoing a call from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who also spoke at the NBGH conference, Ganz told benefits managers to look for ways to help improve the healthcare system by changing employees’ experiences when it comes to the cost of their own care or the care of someone they love.

“To pay for healthcare that is beyond the means of an individual or family is a noble, noble task,” Ganz continued. But the most noble of intentions mean nothing without that foundation of trust, he said, and it’s up to HR and benefits managers to build it.

In order to do this, the focus must be on the human element, not a return on investment, Ganz said. There is too much focus on what can save a company money, rather than what a benefit can do for employees and their families, he said.

“When we focused on the actual experience of individuals and their families, they started making decisions that created far more value for them than anything we could have thought of if we started from an economic perspective, and that is powerful,” Ganz said.

“As employers, you have such an incredible opportunity,” he continued. Because employees trust their employers, he said, it is important for companies to show that they really care about workers and their journey. “You show it by the types of programs you put in,” he said “[By showing employees you care,] you can move mountains.”

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