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February 26, 2018

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Getting Off the Boat

February 26, 2018

For starters, thank you for indulging me as I take some time to reflect on all that's led me to the launch of Hartin Dynamics. Hopefully, some of my thoughts will resonate with you. I have a strong commitment to finding better solutions for the healthcare crisis this country faces. With that goal in mind, it's time to set sail on my own.

 

From the Mothership to Setting Sail

After 25 years of great success with a fantastic company, I began to look into the future and wasn’t quite sure where the ship I was on was headed. For most of my career, I was clear on where I was going and how I could help my company along with my clients. Yet more recently, my philosophies about where the direction of the insurance industry and where my "boat" was going were clearly starting to diverge.

 

For over a year, I tried to reconcile my professional opinions with those of the huge "mothership" company I was working for. I finally realized that the two were not likely to align anytime soon. With new leadership and unclear vision, I just wanted off the boat. At the same time, I had reached a point where financially I didn’t have to wait around to find out if the current ship was going to float or sink. I felt confident that is was time to take a bold leap of faith and follow my entrepreneurial aspirations.

 

After reading multiple books, engaging in long conversations with employers, studying reports outlining the success and failure of the system, I became driven to find a better way. I saw open waters of opportunity and certainly some challenges. I knew that I needed to get back to something I believed in - something that would help my future clients and their employees. Unfortunately, the brokers many companies currently lean on for advice are aligned more with the carriers goals than that of their clients. You see, the system that has been in place for years is feeding the carriers and brokers bonus. Employers are left accepting larger increases every year and are forced to make very difficult decisions. 

 

Assessing the Situation

With employers seeing double-digit increases year after year on healthcare, over a sustained period of time, the system is bound to break. Most companies aren't experiencing their own 2X growth, yet one of their top line item expenses (employee benefits) were doubling. Doesn't this lend itself to eventual catastrophic failure for those companies and potentially our country? 

 

I’ve watched as we’ve struggled through things like "Hillarycare", the national healthcare debate, Obamacare and our current administration trying to make adjustments. Yet, no one has achieved sustainable change. The silos of political agendas have caused chaos. And as negative as this may all sound, I’m more than pleased to report that there are solutions! There are groups of people on the forefront trying to push change. These champions of change are moving the conversation toward better solutions, lower-cost, better quality care and overall transparency. 

 

Personal Optimism

To be a part of the solution is so invigorating to me. This opportunity is giving me a renewed energy to go fight with what most assuredly will be a significant uphill battle. My research says there is more lobbyist money being thrown towards healthcare and the current status quo than in almost any other industry (in fact combining some of the largest industries nationally). There is a reason why healthcare costs are continuing to rise, employees and employers are continuing to feel a massive burden, while at the same time, the largest health carriers are seeing massive increases in their stock valuations. 

 

Despite the current state, some clarity comes from looking at some very simple principles. I hope you'll agree, at least in part, that something has to change, and the change is not rocket science.

 

5 Concepts to Think About 

  1. The current status quo broker is not aligned with the employer’s needs. Most brokers will spreadsheet with the costs and evaluate some options, bring you back the least terrible increase year-over-year, and as they do their own income goes up. The simple fact that these brokers are paid a percentage of the premium, the broker doesn’t do you any favors when you take an increase. I believe the broker should be paid for services and should be fully aligned with the client’s needs. We should eliminate the potential of showing solutions that are more aligned with their personal commissions than with what the client needs for their workforce.
     

  2. Transparency of care needs to be standard practice. It’s amazing to me that people will study the nuances of online shipping costs and actually pay more money to make sure they save a few dollars in shipping. Likewise, we will spend hours lamenting over an electronics purchase with reviews and cost comparisons. As consumers, we demand transparency. Yet one of the biggest expenditures in the country - health care - is far from transparent. Case in point, my friend Dave Contorno recently documented his research of hip replacement, back surgery and hernia surgery costs, along with the required follow-up treatments. After calling multiple surgery centers, he learned that some had little to no information on frequency of the treatment or anticipated outcomes. Nor could they explain the price variances he got ranging from $3000 to $40,000. He learned that many times, the best treatments are also the most expensive because those facilities don’t conduct those surgeries with any frequency. Bringing transparency to what the costs actually provide can be very eye-opening. Patients can many times get better treatment for significantly less money.
     

  3. Pharma needs an overhaul. My eyes were opened to this by reading "Restoring the American Dream" by Dave Chase. The book highlights a big issue that needs to be corrected around pharmacy and PBM's. As we hear daily from the media, pharmacy pills are handed out in this country like candy. Sadly, much of the diagnosis that they’re prescribed for seems to be incorrect. Perhaps, doctors under scrutiny for malpractice choose to err on the side of over treatment and over diagnosis. With the lack of transparency to understand how effective a doctor is, it’s very difficult for the patient to really know if they’re getting quality treatment. The cost is always important, but not as important as getting the right care when it’s you or someone you love who is going under a knife.
     

  4. Many companies are still under a fully insured health plan. This allows the insurance companies to profit immensely from a healthy population in any company. The best "next generation" advisors I work with have done a fantastic job of deconstructing the health plan, clearing out all the garbage and really helping employers understand where their money goes.  This group of revolutionary advisors are more than willing to do the extra work required to be aligned with the employers needs and to help that employer manage and contain costs. The savings for the effort is very substantial.
     

  5. It’s a proven fact that healthier, happier employees are more productive. A focus on employee wellbeing is not only good for the employees, but it’s great for the company as well. There are wonderful strategies designed to drive down costs with the current utilization of telemedicine and other wellness programs. While working to improve overall employee wellbeing, we finally have discovered that financial wellness is just as important as physical wellness. The challenge I’ve seen is that great strategies and ideas never get executed. The necessary communication, from the C-suite and down, should focus on awareness of how to utilize benefits. When you take the time to educate employees, you ultimately save time by having the employees be more productive and effective while at work. Absenteeism is ranked as one of the largest concerns for employers. When you have overworked and overstressed employees not focused on the job at hand, they cannot be productive  which really can siphon out profits very quickly from any company. 

 

Opportunity and Gratitude

I’m so very grateful for all of the leaders, mentors and trailblazers who have helped me over my career to shape my belief system. Now that I've gotten off the ship , I’m very grateful to those who have been around to support my decision.

 

Of special note, Greg Carlton of Peel and Holland for over two decades (and now Allied Advisers) is one of the most brilliant minds in the industry. I was able to benefit immensely by installing some of his strategies for his client’s years ago in response to some of politically charged healthcare policies that impacted Kentucky in some very negative ways. Many of Greg's strategies to manage costs are what current advisors are finally doing now. 

 

I have also learned immensely from leaders who are pushing new agendas such as Kevin Trokey from Q4 Intelligence. Likewise, the Benefit Advisors Network has a great number of nextgen advisors working to move into the future. I want to thank many others including Jeannie Moore, Heather Nessler, Eric Stuber, Kelly Harding, Roy Riley, Tripp Amos and countless others who I am certain I will forget to mention because there are so many. These people have worked tirelessly to help me gain a solid perspective and mold the direction that Hartin Dynamics is taking.

 

Like most other entrepreneurs, I have a passion, and I believe there’s a better way. I am excited to follow this new path. I look forward to the challenges and seeing future successes, all while knowing we have real solutions to real problems.   

 

If any of this rings true for you or your company please don’t hesitate to comment or connect with Hartin Dynamics. Thank you for spending a few minutes to understand a little bit about my recent journey and transition. 

 

All the best,
Dennis

 

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