It's Time For Retirement Plan Sponsors To Take Control Or Not

Most Americans think that people who work in the retirement and investment services industry are extremely smart and component. And many of these workers are smart and competent, but not all of them. Every industry and profession has its not so smart and not so competent bunch. However, somehow just like doctors and lawyers, retirement and investment services workers enjoy an automatic elevated status in comparison to other professionals. Now there is nothing wrong with showing respect for a person's knowledge and skill level and the effort it took to obtain it, but should this come automatically?

No, it should not and here's why. When you place a person or profession in an elevated position, you are unlikely to question what they do, why, and how it will impact you. But even worse is that the person in that position is not likely to feel any obligation to share the information with you in the first place. See, they already know you are in awe of them and their credentials. They also know they intimidate other people. So much so that you'll pretty much agree to do whatever they suggest.

Don't agree? Then explain to me why most employers did not know what retirement plan fees they paid or that they paid them at all. Or explain to me why some employers don't know that they are the plan sponsor and fiduciary of their retirement plan and are ultimately responsible for their plan's compliance. Or better yet, explain to me how the retirement and investment services industry got so big so fast by offering routine services with very little risk to their bottom line.

Still not persuaded? Check out the minutes of any workplace retirement plan committee to see what if any questions they are asking their retirement plan representatives. And if the retirement plan reps participate in these meetings, you can bet that there is a lot of nodding in agreement going on. I know. I participated in these meetings and they go a lot like this: Continue Reading...

Can The Apple Watch Replace Traditional Wellness Programs?

Jeb Bush's remarks about how the Apple Watch can transform the American healthcare system didn't go over really well with people who already dislike him and his family. Granted he is not the most articulate guy and we know he's a poor listener, but I'm not sure he meant to say what a lot of people are accusing him of saying. People accused him of saying that the Apple Watch could replace Obamacare or basic medical care.

And while I will never be caught defending a Bush (I have yet to resolve the trauma I experienced when Dubya first became President), I think Jebya was just looking for an opportunity to let everyone know how much he loves his Watch and how it's changing his health habits. And I get it. I got my Apple Watch (Sport) on April 29th and the fitness tracking apps have changed my life. I love getting the reminders to stand and the awards for meeting my fitness goals. Even when I don't receive a reminder, I check to make sure I am on track to meet my daily exercise, calorie and standing goals. If it is getting a little late in the day and I haven't met my goals, I'll clean my bathroom. I leave items I need on the top floor of my house so that I can get them one at a time. I make my dog walk a little longer than she probably wants. I won't go to bed until I meet all of my fitness goals for the day and I refuse to change my goals to make them easier to reach.

As a result, I feel lighter and stronger and motivated to keep using the Activity and Workout apps on my Apple Watch. I look forward to even more apps of this type. I love my Apple Watch!

But if you know anything about my background as an employee benefits professional who helped enroll hundreds of people in health insurance plans, you know I would never suggest that anyone stop paying their health insurance premiums and use the money to buy an Apple Watch. The Apple Watch and other fitness trackers are a great supplement to health insurance, not a replacement of it. But Jebya's jumbled remarks did make me think of something the Apple Watch could replace, and that's a traditional workplace wellness program

Apple Watch Vs. Traditional Workplace Wellness Programs Continue Reading...

Routine Physical Not Covered...? Who's To Blame?

It is an unfortunate fact that millions of Americans rely on their medical care provider to know what their health plan covers. Thousands of times each day doctors are asked, "is this covered by my health plan?" Some doctors will answer "yes" or "no" and others refer the patient to their in-house insurance billing staff or the insurance company. But problems can and do arise when doctors answer in the affirmative. You see, to many patients a "yes" answer means that there are no out-of-pocket costs to them for the procedure. Meanwhile, the doctor is assuming that the patient understands that the care may be subject to a deductible or coinsurance. Therefore, patients end up paying a lot more for basic and non-basic medical services than they thought they would or should pay.

Whose Fault Is It Anyway

Patients. Even before passage of the Affordable Care Act, individuals started paying more for their health insurance plans and the healthcare they received through higher premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance. Politicians, policy makers, insurers, and employers claimed that it was important that the healthcare consumers had more skin in the game so that they understood the costs and value of their benefits. And those individuals would take responsibility for understanding how their health plan works and how to get the most value for their dollars.

The only problem or problems with this line of thinking is/are:

  • Most Americans hate navigating the healthcare system
  • Most Americans don't know how to navigate the healthcare system
  • The healthcare system is consciously but needlessly difficult to navigate
  • The healthcare system is not consumer-oriented
I could go on, but you get the picture--the latest healthcare it phrase, consumerism, is a lie. Healthcare consumers have too many obstacles to overcome to wisely use their health insurance. And the maddening reality is that insurers, politicians and policy makers acknowledge that the consumer is at a severe disadvantage in being able to compare the quality and costs of their healthcare coverage. What they won't acknowledge is that the whole deductible-coinsurance plan design is part of the problem. This complicated cost sharing mechanism, along with in- and out-of-network medical providers, are two primary reasons people don't understand their plan or just don't want to be bothered with it.

But that is not to say that healthcare consumers get a pass on understanding some of the basics of the healthcare system. In all cases, individuals should know that if you want to know what your insurance covers, contact the people you pay each month for the coverage. Healthcare consumers can also insists that their insurer and doctors work together to provide them with cost estimates for non-emergency medical care. They also need to acknowledge that it is ultimately on them to get the information they need before receiving any non-emergency care. Lastly, it is up to healthcare consumers to lobby for a simpler and more transparent healthcare system and not accept the status quo.

Doctors. No one is saying that doctors should understand health insurance as well as they understand their chosen profession. Continue Reading...

Three Reasons The Affordable Care Act Will Survive


Some republican lawmakers, conservative intellectuals, and their constituents will never stop excoriating the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). They will never admit they were wrong about its negative impact on businesses, but will instead wait and hope for its collapse. A time, no matter how far in the future where they can say, we told you it was the worse legislation ever passed. But by all indications their I told you so moment won't come anytime soon, if ever. And here are three simple reasons why:

  1. It’s Working
  2. It’s Not Failing
  3. It’s Better Than The Alternative(s)
It's Working. Obamacare recently marked its five-year anniversary, but it will take many more years before anyone knows its real impact. But what is certain is that for every pronouncement of Obamacare success, there is a rebuttal.

Claim: Sixteen million Americans gain access to healthcare
Rebuttal: It’s due to Medicaid expansion

Claim: Health insurance premiums are increasing at a lower rate…
Rebuttal: It’s due to government subsidies to large health insurers

Yet Obamacare can legitimately claim some success. More people do have access to health insurance. People are receiving physicals and have access to needed medications. Hospitals are experiencing a reduction in unpaid bills.
And states that previously rejected Medicaid expansion are finding ways to accept it.

It's Not Failing. Obamacare opponents want to have it both ways. First they complain that the law is the largest piece of legislation ever created by far at almost 11,000 pages. They say it is too complex for individuals and businesses to understand and comply with its many provisions. They label it a job destroyer and say it will lead to even higher health insurance premiums.

Meanwhile, as the Obama administration tries to work around the many complications that this unprecedented legislation was bound to encounter, Obamacare opponents try to use these difficulties to prove the law is unworkable. However, their efforts are failing. They are failing because for every problem there is a solution. The first open enrollment demonstrated how ill-prepared the Administration was to handle enrollment through the federal exchange, but by the second open enrollment, basic enrollment issues were resolved. Because fixing even large computer systems is doable. The postponement of the individual mandate is also interpreted as a failure, but by taking more time and addressing challenges sooner rather than later, the chances of successful implementation increase.

Obamacare opponents waste so much energy and credibility predicting Obamacare failures, only to learn that they can all be overcome.

It's Better Than The Alternatives. Obamacare opponents refuse to genuinely acknowledge the amount of suffering people experienced under the pre-Obamacare healthcare system. No amount of data or anecdotal stories about people struggling with medical debt, physical and emotional pain or even dying moves them. In fact, many go so far as to claim the prior system worked fine.

But it is this mean-spiritedness that will help Obamacare survive. People receiving medication to alleviate the pain of chronic illnesses because of Obamacare will feel the cruelty of having it taken away. Despite what the opposition may say, it's not merely the fact of not being able to take something away once given, it's about what they are trying to take away. Trying to take away a life without debilitating pain is not just anything--it's the difference between compassion and a lack of compassion.

Now I am not saying that everyone who opposes Obamacare is a cold-hearted monster. I know that people genuinely think the law encroaches on free enterprise, or interferes with the employer-employee relationship, or costs too much. But what all Obamacare opponents forget or ignore is that human suffering outweighs all of these concerns. And I think the reason the opposition struggles to come up with a supportable alternative to Obamacare is this focus on the non-human costs of the law. That and they have the disadvantage of being the alternative. President Obama and his supporters already had a leg up on the opposition by addressing the healthcare issue first.


Not all opposition to Obamacare is born out of hatred for the man who bears its name and his supporters, but a lot of it is. This negativity along with a visible lack of compassion for those in need of affordable health care, and a focus on perceived but unreal failures almost guarantees that Obamacare will survive. The opposition refuses to acknowledge how personal and powerful access to health insurance and health care is to those who never had it or struggle to keep it. Bottom line, they’re wrong on their predictions of doom and they’re wrong on why the law is increasing in popularity and the real human reasons it is here to stay. It’s not about free stuff; it’s about having important, even life-saving needs met.