The Alan Katz Health Care Reform Blog

Health Care Reform From One Person's Perspective

Where the Heck Have I Been?

Posted by Alan on August 9, 2011


My apologies. It’s been too long since I wrote a post here and I haven’t left word as to why and what’s up.

First, my absence is not because there isn’t a lot to write about. On the contrary, what’s going on with health care reform is both fascinating and diverse. Rather, I simply haven’t had a chance to carve out the time necessary to write about the many things that are happening. I’ve tried, often unsuccessfully, to make this blog a resource that provides a perspective on health care reform developments, a perspective that takes what’s evolving and makes sense of it in some way that isn’t always available elsewhere. After all, there are a lot of resources out there on the topic. I wanted to provide something different. The downside of acting on this desire, however, is that it takes more time than simply linking to other sources, and time has been in somewhat short supply of late, for reasons described below.

The second reason for my absence is a change in my occupation. In this blog I’ve sought to present a broker’s perspective on health care reform. Yes, I’ve held many positions in-and-outside of the insurance industry. When I started writing I was (again) leading an insurance agency. Subtitling this blog “Health Care Reform From One Broker’s Perspective” was both accurate and appropriate. Even when, a  few years ago, I became a consultant the subtitle felt comfortable. Yes, I worked with carriers, agencies and others. And I wa no longer actively selling health insurance. But I remained active in working with brokers. I wrote a book on sales, spoke frequently before audiences of brokers. And I remained active in Health Underwriters. In short, I still felt like a broker. As most brokers who read this blog know I’ve worked hard over the years to educate the public and decision makers about the value we bring to the system. And when discussing brokers and what we do, it still feels more natural saying “we” than “they.” So I kept the subtitle.

Now, however, my job has changed. One of my clients, a carrier named SeeChange Health Insurance, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. They have offered me an opportunity to help build and launch not only a new carrier, but a new approach to health coverage. Value-based benefit plans focus on the “health” in health insurance, providing financial incentives to members who take specified actions to take care of themselves and identify chronic conditions before they blossom into serious problems. This, it seems to me, is how health care coverage should work. The opportunity to be a part of the first carrier whose entire product portfolio provides this kind of benefits on a fully-insured basis to small and mid-size groups was irresistible.

Which brings me to the third reason I haven’t posted anything here of late. I’m too much of a broker to pretend that assuming a leadership role at a carrier is incompatible with calling oneself a broker. I may be bringing the attitudes and outlook of the brokerage community into this insurer (and SeeChange Health is, not surprisingly, both broker-friendly and broker-centric), but that doesn’t mean I can do a blog discussing “health care reform from a broker’s perspective.” By necessity, the nature of this blog has to change.

For example, I need to be sensitive to the fact that when I criticize carriers (either specific ones or as a group) I’m no longer viewed as an observer or broker, but as a competitor or participant. Or that when I talk about how carriers in general approach issues of importance to public policy or commissions, there will be a tendency for readers to think I’m speaking for or about SeeChange Health. Or when I challenge some brokers on one issue or another some are likely to perceive my response as “typical of the way carriers think.”

The need to rethink the nature of this blog coincided with the requirement that I devote considerable effort and time to launching a new venture. (Although we’ve launched in only one state, for now, when that state is California we’re talking about a big state). As a result I’ve been away from the blog for several weeks.

I confess I miss the place. I’ve enjoyed deep dives into the issues surrounding health care reform and I’ve learned a great deal from those of you who have taken the time to comment on this blog or been kind enough to introduce yourselves at various speaking engagements. And I do intend to return to more regular postings, starting in September. Yes, this blog will change–a bit. (It will definitely need a new subtitle for one thing). I hope, however,  the community we’ve built here will remain and even grow.

I look forward to continuing our dialogue. Soon.

31 Responses to “Where the Heck Have I Been?”

  1. tyler said

    SeeChange’s approach sounds great. This is the kind of forward thinking that could actually bring needed change.

  2. Hey Alan After a long time you started posting in your blog awaiting for your next blog post.

  3. drpaul said

    Monday

    Hope you will stay active, even if a little less driven. The dimensions of healthcare reform are virtually endless. And the degree of paradigm paralysis is profound. The private, state supervised insurance industry has always been an innovator. Too bad, the delivery side has not responded in-kind. Why in this age of high quality health care for Complex Health Needs does our country rank 41st worst out of the world’s 43 developed countries for our maternal mortality rate? And, also how is that the states of Alaska, Indiana, Maine and Vermont have maternal mortality rates that would rank them among the top 10 developed countries of the world? My sense is the our nation’s health care is not organized to achieve justly accessible health care to each citizen beginning with Basic Health Needs.

    I seem to recall that McDonald’s began with a business model of “location, location, location.” I hope you will consider, along with the other contributors, how we can reshape our nation’s healthcare by promoting the responsibility of local organizational innovators to achieve “access, access, access” by their health care resources for each citizen. Carefully directed, I believe this may be the only strategy that could reliably improve the unacceptably inefficient character of our nation’s healthcare. The future economic stability of our nation will require a 20-30% decrease in the total cost of our nation’s annual healthcare. I believe that the concepts developed by Elinor Ostrom, economics Nobel prize winner, for decentralized governance must apply.

    As an observer of healthcare, your connection as a broker is ideal.

  4. Adam Goyer said

    I’m excited about what Seechange is bringing to the table. I’m putting my first proposal together with them right now. Hopefully it goes well.

  5. Hey Alan,

    I just set up my first group using SeaChange. They have a great concept for how health insurance should be.
    Good luck with them.

    Tim

  6. Give me a break said

    My view, I am a 51 year old female in good health. The only illness I have had my whole life was having my Gall Bladder removed, I am overweight (220-240) and rarely get sick. I have NO pre-existing conditions, I am checked yearly for Diabetes, etc…everything is normal. I don’t smoke nor drink. I have been turned down by two insurance companies due to my height and weight ratio, I am 5’0″. What I am miffed about is the fact that my health history is not taken into consideration, what is used are “probable risk charts”. Everyone is at risk regardless of height and weight, unfortunately my husband and I cannot afford to pay $1400 a month for health insurance nor do we have $10-$20,000 on hand should something happen. So for now, we go without and take our chances.

    If anyone has any suggestions other than loosing weight, which I am in the process of working on, please let me know.

    • It’s sad but true. Part of our health care problem is the finger pointing. Doctors blame the tort laws. Patients blame the hospitals and big pharma. Insurance companies blame the obese patients. No one is willing to step up and take responsibility.

      We all need seriously commit to getting our BMI as close to 22 as we can. That means exercise. It’s a harsh reality. We need to eat less but exercise a lot whole more.

      I wish you the very best. Weight is an issue for more than half of the population.

  7. Alan,

    I become a fan of your topic. your all the topics are always give some better health insurance information. we always waiting for your new informative topic.

  8. Thanks Alan,

    Every time I need a useful topic to read about in the ever boring spear of health insurance I come to your blog.

    =)

  9. Green Tea said

    Good luck Allan.
    Even if you are in SeeChange already, do continue blogging. :)

  10. You’re going to be missed! I have been a broker for 30 years and never got an offer like that! Hopefully, you can post every now and then…from a different perspective, which should be interesting.

  11. Your blog is one of the best with relation to this industry and I am going to miss your commentary. As someone who works in the insurance industry, I can say that the topics being discussed here are very informative and insightful. I hope you will still post some commentaries here! (I’m still in-denial, am i not?)

  12. Alan,

    We have been “on the road” and I just had a chance to read this (a long time on the road).

    Congratulations and Mazel tov on your new career! Who’da thunk it? And I thought you wanted to take life easier (don’t know where I got that idea!).

    I think that you have run the best health care blog in which I’ve been privileged to participate, certainly the most balanced and articulate.

    My very best to you and for your future!

    Spence

  13. Harald Schot said

    Alan,

    It looks like the blog won’t continue. I appreciate all the info and commentary you’ve provided. good luck in the new venture !!

  14. Glad to see you posting again I read some of your older posts and they’re really insightful. Good luck in your new role.

  15. Shaun said

    It is great to see you back again, I always liked reading your informative articles. Id also like to wish you the best of luck in your new job!

  16. Ann H. said

    Integrity is a word that comes to mind when I think of Alan Katz. You focused on integrity again when you honestly and forthrightly told us about your new venture, your move to a carrier, and your desire to maintain a valuable communication with brokers without a conflict of interest. Integrity shines. Thank you for shining that light continually.

    Good luck in your new role, and be sure to let us know when your product enters the Arizona market!

    Ann H.

  17. Jen said

    “And the three men I admire most:
    The father, son, and the holy ghost,
    They caught the last train for the coast
    The day [that healthcare] died.”

    -Don McLean

    Of course everyone wishes you success. And, of course, we understand why you are leaving.

    I find it interesting (ironic?) that someone who has been such as staunch supporter of brokers, who has preached the virtues of agents/brokers and how we are so necessary to the industry, and how things will get better, and how we can survive if we change our biz practices, and that one can make a viable income in the heath agency/brokerage business even with the changes (the whole NAHU pitch)… has given up the ghost (caught the last train to the coast) and gone after the big bucks to work for a carrier.

    There is a message here… in your leaving.

    I don’t know about others… but I got it.

    • Alan said

      I like the use of lyrics, Jen. Nicely done. As for my new endeavor: Ironic? Perhaps. But I think you’re reading the wrong message.

      I was a consultant, writer and speaker long before Senator Barack Obama became President Obama. All I’ve done is moved to working full-time for one of those clients (while still writing and speaking now and then). My outlook on the future for professional brokers remains unchanged. So long as we … I mean … they … add value to the products they sell I believe they’ll be compensated for their time and effort. If all a broker does is paperwork (trading one piece of paper — a policy — for another — a check) then yes, they could be in trouble. Even bureaucrats can do that. But for brokers who look to helping their clients get the best coverage for their premium dollar, who help their group clients maintain not just a healthy workforce, but a healthy bottom line, I believe there’ll be a robust future. I’m not taking the last train anywhere for the coast or for Clarksville (sorry, only baby boomer train song that came to mind). Who knows, given my rather non-linear career path I may be a broker again in a few years. For now, I’m building a distribution strategy for SeeChange Health that is unabashedly and unapologetically broker-centric. And there definitely is a message there.

  18. Good to hear from you. I watch and read what you post because you are honest and in touch with what to expect in the industry.

    Nothing in life on this earth is for sure excpet death and taxes, but when it comes to growing a business and being an agent in the heath insurance industry, it has been comforting to have a guy on “the inside tract” keeping it real for the rest of us.

    I have trusted your advice and position over the years and I don’t intend to stop now! I look forward to finding out more about your new venture and wish you all the success in the world!

    I am in California and look forward to adding this product offering to my clients!

    Keep us in the loop! Thanks so much!

    Blessings,
    Hayley Friedman
    agent with Chuck Huggins Insurance Services
    Carmel, Fresno and Elk Grove-California

  19. Congratulations, Alan. If more of our health insurance carriers had people like you running the shows, life in the broker world would be a far better place. I missed reading your posts as you are always spot on, and am glad to see you plan to keep writing. Sounds like you have found a good place to be right now, and I look forward to reading about your views from a new perspective. I hope all is successful – if you branch out into Texas, let me know!

  20. Elizabeth Kaura said

    Alan,
    No matter your new affiliation, what you have to say is refreshing. Just in that you are struggling with how to present yourself tells me you value integrity. I think most of us are adult enough to filter when necessary and still glean the important content that encourages us and moves us into forward thinking as we venture off into new territory. Keep on keeping on good man, we need more like you! Regards, Elizabeth Kaura

  21. William B. Gould said

    Alan, Good luck on your new venture. Let me know when you want to branchout to Arizona. Bill Gould

  22. I’ve followed Alan through his many transformations and although I do not always (or even often) agree with him on every broker-centric issue, I trust him. He has integrity and is worth following, no matter what venture he is heading.

  23. Congrats Alan – do keep us informed on how SeaChange is doing & keep blogging.

  24. Mark Seghers said

    Great news Alan, and this does indeed seem like an ideal opportunity. I have also recently made a move into a position I feel will allow me to make a difference, if I work hard on all the right things as I intend to do. When the going gets rough… You know the rest. Kudos and enjoy!

  25. Lynn Bull said

    We are so excited to have you at SeeChange. We are committed to making this work at our agency. Great concept; it’s where we take all of our self-funded groups and we want to do the same with the fully insured market. Great to be working with you again.

  26. Best of Luck Al! Remember those of us in the trenches.
    Frank Smith

  27. Hello Alan!

    I am so glad to see this blog this morning. Best of luck to you! I can hear your enthusiasm in your writing. SeeChange Health Insurance sounds like a place you should be. You have always been a head of the game! I hope those benefits become available in the states which I am licensed (Arizona, Nevada and Texas). I would love to have something to be excited about sharing with my clients. It has been a long time since that has happened. :)

  28. carl c. schuessler, jr. said

    Congrats Alan! I love what you do here. I am in Georgia and would love to hear more about the product especially if it launches here. Send me your contact info and let me know when you can help me.

    thx for all you do!

  29. Thanks, Alan. I had wondered where you were. I think those of us who have known you over the years know that you are totally committed in your heart and soul to the broker community. Even those of us who were initially horrified when you went over to “the dark side” found that it was ultimately a wonderful thing for us. We always knew when dealing with Big Blue that you were there, watching our backs, and that meant the world to us.

    That said, I would certainly hope that you will still be out there blogging and giving us your insights and perspectives. Adjust it some if you need to, but please don’t disappear from the blogging community.

    I am also excited to have you involved in getting SeeChange out there. The concept is awesome, and needed. But this are tough times to start any new venture, especially in the health insurance market which has been shrinking and shrinking over the past few years. (I remember attending a seminar several years ago where the speaker gave his opinion that there would be only 4-5 carriers left within the next few years and we all scoffed. Well, we’re there, and it’s not healthy – no pun intended.) So I hope you can help get it out there and viable.

    Welcome back.

    Marilyn

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