Rarely in the past 40 years has there been a time when the continued existence of the employer-based benefits system has been in such doubt. Rarely a time when virtually all sectors have been under siege simultaneously: When vendors faced such regulator pressure on what products to offer and how to price them, while brokers' incomes and livelihoods were at risk, employers faced decisions on whether they should continue sponsoring benefits, and workers sagged under the weight of increased cost sharing.

Rarely has there been a time when it was more important to gather together as an industry to seek solutions to common problems. These discussions are now occurring throughout the benefits industry, but we are particularly proud to be hosting such exchanges Sept. 9-11, at the co-located Benefits Forum & Expo and Employee Benefit Adviser Summit in Phoenix, AZ. Those of you reading this at the event will find an unmatched opportunity to step back from the daily grind, gain perspective, recharge batteries and replenish your tool kits.

In the course of these three days, attendees will hear from keynote speakers and workshop presenters examining the complexities of today's markets and offering real-life decision-making tools. They will also be able to confer with the leading providers of benefit products and services available to meet evolving consumer needs. And what's more, you'll meet and interact with peers who are, or have been, where you are right now, providing an opportunity to brainstorm informally and solve problems.

Among the key topics addressed, attendees will find sessions on the latest developments in health care reform, the implications of 401(k) fee disclosure and other retirement plan pressures, potential new efficiencies from technology, and headway against major wellness challenges such as obesity. The workshops feature participation by leading-edge employers and advisers with vital experience - whether good or bad - to share.

The common thread running through all these educational opportunities at BF&E, Benefit Adviser Summit and elsewhere is nothing less than the very issue of survival: the survival of employer-sponsored benefits, of businesses, and safeguards to employee health, wealth and productivity. The status quo is untenable, the challenges too great to be ignored, and the risks of failure are too high.

What you do with the information, and how you use it, will define the industry in years ahead. The future of employee benefits is in your hands.

Send letters, queries and story ideas to Managing Editor Andrea Davis at andrea.davis@sourcemedia.com.

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