2017 was a Journey to Rectify Behavior
At the outset of 2017, I was on a mission to correct my behavior and dig deeper into the thoughts, beliefs, and tenets that were causing behavior that I found less than desirable in regards to my work. Some of my focus was specifically related to my growth and development of leading a team, and some of my focus was specifically related to the advice I give clients. Like any good journey, what I found wasn’t what I set out seeking, and the byproducts of the journey were way more rewarding than the goals that I originally held in higher esteem.
The 1st thing I tackled in 2017 was Twitter.
This was due to all the reading and lambasting of the millennials I was seeing in both HR & Insurance Industry publications. I figured, I needed to try to walk in their shoes somehow and learn the lingo of the youth. To be fair, being a Gen-X’er, I put myself on a much higher pedestal than the rest of the aging insurance industry around me, as I thought I could surely speak their language and understand their motivators better than my insurance peers. And while I knew that Twitter wasn’t going to be the end-all-be-all experience I needed to speak a different generation’s language, I thought it could at least be a good start.
The results were mixed at best. I did get better at twitter and understanding the lingo. I did not get good at engagement and communication with Millennials at all. To be fair, no one at any age is looking to engage with a mainly professional twitter account, and this was the first lesson. Personal stuff is way more interesting than insurance & HR Tech. Joining in on voicing opinion or sharing original thought is hard and not really rewarding when you have to compete against so much other intriguing and entertaining content from other sources. Abject failure was my result on this attempt of learning the millennial lingo and behavior drivers.
The beauty of Twitter however was something to behold. I have deepened a few relationships through twitter that weren’t too robust before this year. For that, I call this a priceless experience. I also learned big lessons about news, content delivery, repetition in content marketing, and the technology and personal side of building an audience. Oh, and there was the whole greatest time ever to witness twitter in action during the 1st year of a very politically polarized set of voices speaking out during a new presidential administration. Seeing the reactions being shared, witnessing voices of outrage, as well as voices of hope, and beginning to see how other generations and other entire cultures digest information and language was a gift that I never could have gained otherwise. Thanks to my Twitter experiment, I now have to recant my previous statement that “twitter is just a fad that will fade faster than Angry Birds.”
The 2nd thing I tackled in 2017 was NAHU.
NAHU (the National Association of Health Underwriters) is one of the predominant trade organizations in our industry. I had flirted with their local chapters and content for some time, but had just never participated. I was lucky enough to be a qualifier to their Leading Producer Round Table for the 2nd year in row (maybe longer if I’d known about the benefits of applying previously), and I was determined to figure out what kind of knowledge and ideas for improving the lives of our clients could be found in a peer group that I had previously ignored.
I did find some stuff here, but it wasn’t so much a discovery of new stuff to give to our clients right away. No, this was a rediscovery of stuff I really enjoyed previously, but overall, I thought wasn’t ready for prime-time. I got to hear from peers who were being successful with a deeper engagement in health advocacy and tools to make self-funding health plans easier to execute and I was all ears to get restarted on this journey without wasting any haste.
The byproduct here wasn’t directly from NAHU, although without the personal interactions of NAHU members, I wouldn’t be in the conversation. The byproduct was finding a more robust conversation about free market healthcare and provider pricing transparency. Without having witnessed a few peers speaking passionately on their unscheduled soapbox moments, I’d have missed a huge wave of development and learning more about the movement that I didn’t even realize had a name 2 years ago. Back then, in purely an experimental way, I was structuring a direct primary care plan for two different clients in 2015 and I didn’t know there was even an name for this kind of strategy. And this rekindling of the transparent pricing conversation has even given opportunity to be on the advisory panel of a few new vendors that I think are going to reshape healthcare in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area as early as 2018.
Side-Note on this one
There is huge opportunity here when setting up a self-funded health plan that can incentivize member behavior to provide healthier outcomes and better engagement in the spending of healthcare dollars. It’s the only thing I’ve seen that causes legitimate positive improvements for less money spent by both the person needing care as well as the employer. Nowhere else did I see opportunity as great as this in 2017 that can be put into practice immediately. Going Self-Funded with usable Direct Primary Care and Direct Surgical Care contracts will reshape our future quickly.
The 3rd thing I tackled in 2017 gave me gas.
I spent an inordinate amount of thought on a meeting with a client that occurred in 2013. It is one of those moments that sticks with you and you realize you want a do-over. During that moment, I was rolling through a claims analysis report from our Decision Master Warehouse tool. The very first lesson learned when presenting one of these reports is to never again try to review it all in one meeting–but that isn’t what left me sleepless. There was a moment when reviewing that laundry list of claims that we hit a report on the “lifestyle” category. There was a flippant statement that I’ll paraphrase as “just stuff we’ll really never had a good chance to control” to which everyone in the room nodded in agreement. And in that moment, I knew we were 100% wrong and no one cared to challenge that attitude.
That moment paired with my personal journey to fix my own health has led me down several roads of personal experiments. As I turned 40 a few years ago, I was not at my peak physical condition by far. I’m still not, but I’m working at it daily. I had various terms thrown at me by my doctor that included medical terms such as “pre-diabetes” and “metabolic syndrome” as well as my weight gain that led to a very unpleasant increase in snoring which in turn led to a true diagnosis of “sleep-apnea” and the use of the dreaded CPAP machine. At this point, I of course was my own best test-case to tackle the “Lifestyle” claims we so flippantly dismissed.
That journey is ongoing and has had many twists and turns that involved diets, exercise, hormones, and a eventually a much better education about the body, inflammation and the environment around us. Of course, my personal list of afflictions does not encompass everything that gets categorized as a “lifestyle” claim, but I’ve proven to myself that there is an ability to correct several of the conditions that impact health and claims spending both in the moment as well as the related contraindicated claims that are likely with my genetic history. With something so simple as learning about the differences and effects of various types of dietary food intake, I’ve reversed 2 of my conditions, and as I continue to progress, I’m seeing improvement in the other areas, as well. This gives me hope that it can be done with simple small actionable steps.
Now the byproduct from the journey here is of course my increased farting. Okay, I’m kidding about that. Well, no really – I do fart more now that I adhere to a more plant-based diet, but that is not the more valuable byproduct of this journey. The byproduct that was more valuable through this journey was learning about how complicated and overwhelming our system of care really can be when you try to improve your health. Never before had I had the personal experience of being a high-dollar claimant myself. I had prided myself on being the young and healthy male that didn’t have any medical expenses – you know, that kind of person that health insurance companies used to price cheaper than everyone else? Yeah, not having experienced the confusion of our care system left me ignorant of the experience. I now have a much better (but still incomplete) understanding of the complexity of that the end-user of healthcare undergoes, and it is that journey that I now hold more dear as I understand and can speak to that experience to help our clients and their employees who are either undergoing or will soon experience and navigate that system too.
Let’s tackle 2018 on the journey together
As you can tell, there are things I’ll do differently in 2018 and beyond. Included in that will be my new journey as part of the Health Rosetta Institute. My process of becoming one of their certified advisers will be influencing lots of thought, conversations, and writing as we enter the new year and beyond.
Please join with us as we continue to be better versions of our self tomorrow than we were yesterday.
About the author: An avid learner and resourceful leader with a passion for problem solving, Bret is a calming force in the chaos and fast paced evolution of health insurance, employee benefits, and the growing burden of regulatory compliance. He helps people develop the confidence to see beyond the problem at hand and start to re-imagine their goals. Whether he’s helping a client or a colleague, Bret believes a successful interaction is one that allows us all to dream a little bigger when we’re done.
About AG Insurance: AG Insurance (www.agiainc.com) helps employers and their employees with solutions focused on positive organizational impact and improved employee experiences.