Health+Benefits the September 2020 issue

Healthcare from the Infinite Perspective

Our conversation with Simon Sinek continues
By Sandy Laycox Posted on September 1, 2020
For the benefits brokerage side of the insurance business, there’s constantly a conversation in the background about the employer-sponsored insurance model and a single-payer, government-run system. How does one, as a broker who has a just cause and the belief that the work you’re doing is improving the lives of people, block out that noise?

You don’t want to block it out; you have to be aware of it. When I talk about ignoring your competition, I don’t mean ignoring them in the sense that you literally don’t pay attention, but you study your competition so that you may grow, not so that you may try and undermine, right? It’s the same thing here. Any responsible company needs to be aware of the conditions in which they’re working. The question is how much are you swayed by the market? How much are you swayed by the machinations of the news cycle?

There’s something to be said for having a cause and sticking to your cause. It’s like checking your stock portfolio every day and reacting. You can’t invest that way. Everybody knows you’re not supposed to do that. Look at how many people at the crisis started selling stocks out of panic. That’s like the worst thing you can do. There’s something to be said for having a long-term vision and working your best to stick to it and making adjustments. You’ve got to be reactive in something that’s ever changing. You react once the legislation has passed, but to react to whatever the news cycle is and whoever made the angriest tweet can’t be good for business, because how would you ever get anything done? Because what you’re doing is operating out of fear and a wait-and-see mode.

Read the full feature, Are You Unencumbered?

Would you say it would be worth it to look at the elements of a single-payer healthcare system to ask what are the good parts that I could incorporate into my own work?
I think the companies have a preference of which “system” because of their current business model. That’s why they have a preference, because they make more money one way versus the other based on the way that they run their businesses. But if the legislation would have passed, then they would be forced to change all kinds of things regardless, right? They would still have to adapt because they’re going to have to stay in business. They can have preferences—there’s nothing wrong with that—but to have plans for both, genuine plans, that seems to make more sense to me. You can have a preference but be somewhat agnostic as to the whims of politics. Unfortunately, your entire business model may be directed simply by who’s better at producing advertising with the next political campaign, right? Like which ad agency did the political campaign hire?
I thought you were an optimist.

I don’t think this is pessimistic. I think this is like optimism. Optimism isn’t the ignoring of reality. No, optimism is the belief that the future is bright. We have no idea what the politics of the day are going to be. Yes, an industry can have a preference. And it’s like I said, that preference is usually dictated by the current business model, but if that preference were not to go your way, then these companies would not go out of business; these companies would change. They would find new models, and they would be very profitable in the new system. The thing that they’re trying to avoid is the stress of the adjustment. That’s what people are afraid of. It is that doubt.

When digital cameras were invented, Kodak decided to suppress the technology. Sometimes the company doesn’t get to say what gets embraced and what doesn’t get embraced. Everybody’s trying to manipulate the system. My lobbyist is trying to manipulate the system. Your lobbyists are trying to manipulate the system. I go to this fundraiser. You go to that fundraiser. Everybody’s trying to manipulate the system so that it benefits them and their current business model, but what if it doesn’t go your way? If you’re in the insurance industry, shouldn’t you have insurance? Shouldn’t you have a business model prepared for the small eventuality that something could happen? It’s fire insurance. It’s flood insurance. You don’t expect the model to change, but should you be prepared for it?

One more healthcare challenge. Healthcare costs in this country have been rising for a while. If you are a benefits leader seeing that your clients’ costs are increasing all the time, what do you do when you see your clients or customers facing an issue that is related to your work but you can’t do anything about it?

That’s such a good question. You know, the question is if cost becomes the thing. I remember many years ago when I was starting out, most of the work I was doing was small businesses. I would have these negotiations, these battles with companies who would try to nickel and dime me and squeeze my price. I thought it was because they didn’t value what I had. It occurred to me one day: it’s not because they don’t value me; it’s because they don’t have the cash flow. Right? I said to them, “Listen, I won’t negotiate on price, but I’ll negotiate on terms. And you offer me any terms you want, and I’ll accept them.” It was never the price in the first place.

My point is can you look at the situation differently? If money is the challenge for these times and you have no control over managing their healthcare costs, can you help them manage other costs? So are there systems inside your own company that you’re really good at…and you can then share the system that you’ve developed to help manage your own costs with your clients to help them manage theirs? “We know cost is killing you, so here are some systems that we’ve developed to help you manage other costs inside your company. And, by the way, we’ll give them to you for free. We’ll give them to you for free because we know that you need to save money in order to continue to do business with us.”

Sandy Laycox Editor in Chief Read More

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