Anyone who’d hoped that a career in HR (or just looking out for the best interests of their employees) might be a nice, low-key job with loads of personal gratification involved has, this week, found out what it’s like to be under the spotlight.
Finally, America the Ordinary – those folks more interested in “Duck Dynasty” than their health care benefits – has been absolutely bombarded with a non-stop barrage of mass media headlines actually focused on their health care insurance.
And while more than a few of you might be thinking, “Dear Lord, thank you, at long last, someone finally cares,” the wonderfully histrionic grandstanding by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the last-minute deal-making on securing ACA funding and the general climate of fear and confusion leading up to next Tuesday’s launch of the public exchanges – well, it’s all been a little much.
And, perhaps, exactly what we feared might happen as the countdown to some of the tangible realities of the ACA finally began to hit home. I heard one person recently describe the situation as, “What is it going to sound like when 25 million people all collectively start calling the 1-800 numbers on their health care forms on Oct. 1?” It might be a little scary.
I say this as my staff and attendees and I are still in the recovery phase from a successful EBN Benefits Forum and Expo show in the consistently exciting New Orleans, a three-day opportunity to network, learn and, in Big Easy style, have some good times and good food.
It was my first Forum and Expo with the crew and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet many readers, lots of industry experts and to take part in our many sessions and workshops – some coverage of which you’ve seen already, with more to come both online and in our November print edition.
Oddly, however, while this unbelievable behemoth of a health care funding showdown and potential government shutdown loomed in the background, the collected guests and speakers managed to keep things pretty focused. With the possible exception of the charming and energetic Richard Simmons, our featured speaker and group aerobics instructor, although he remains an entertaining and still empowering figure from the earliest days of the personal health care revolution.
I was most interested in the thoughts of individuals such as Teresa White, EVP and COO of Aflac Columbus, who admitted that the sticker shock over new offerings under the looming Obamacare is going to require a lot of participant hand-holding over the coming months.
Especially as her research shows that 90% of employees traditionally rubber stamp any changes they ever make to their benefits during open enrollment, and have mostly indicated that they don’t really want any extra control over their health care.
More than just health care topics, I also enjoyed the “Fargo”-accented Jody Thompson, founder of Culturerx, and her thoughts on how disconnected American workplaces have become – clinging to a 1950s-era 9-to-5 work model in the age of high-speed internet and computer-savvy employees.
As Thompson said, if HR professionals and business professionals can make a slight readjustment and focus more on the actual work their employees are accomplishing, not where they’re doing that work (and all of the awful workplace politics and social hierarchies involved), we might actually become a productive, happy society.
Giving us more time to worry about our health care. Or at least more time to think about it. And given the week ahead, you’re going to hope for a little more attention span. I wish you all the best of luck.
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