The Alan Katz Health Care Reform Blog

Health Care Reform From One Person's Perspective

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We’re Back … and with a New Address. Please (re)Subscribe

Posted by Alan on October 17, 2015

Hello. Once upon a time you were kind/distracted/confused enough to subscribe to the Alan Katz Health Care Reform blog. Thank you. Writing the blog was lots of fun and I appreciate you’re having been part of the community that formed around it.  The blog has been on hiatus, but now it’s back with a new name, slightly expanded focus and a new web address. Continuing to subscribe to the blog is easy: visit the new site, enter your email and click on the Subscribe button.

New Name and More Topics

The new blog is now simply called The Alan Katz Blog. (OK, it’s a bit literal, but at least it’s accurate!) While the nearly exclusive focus of this blog was health care reform, I’m branching out a bit with the new one. Putting health care reform in context will still be a major topic of conversation. Now there will also be posts on politics, business, technology, privacy and more.

Most of the readers of the original blog were health insurance professionals, health care reform junkies and my immediate family. The new blog will continue to appeal to this audience. We’ll just spend some time laughing at the antics of presidential candidates, extolling the virtue of Doctor Who and poker, and touching on whatever else seems of interest. It should be fun.

New Web Address Means New Subscription Sign-up Needed

Having a new web address for the blog means that, if you want to receive an email when there’s a new post, you’ll need to subscribe again. I apologize for the inconvenience. Fortunately, it takes only about 10 seconds to do. I hope you will.

All the best,
Alan

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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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 31 Comments »

Trailblazed Book Goes Digital

Posted by Alan on November 13, 2010

Off topic, but … as is apparent from the book cover appearing on the right of this page, I’ve written a book. Titled Trailblazed: Proven Paths to Sales Success the book reports on the findings of a study my consulting firm, the Alan Katz Group, conducted to identify the practices, procedures and perspectives common to high-growth producers (those achieving 20% sales growth year-over-year), but not to their less successful colleagues.

The book has been doing well (thank you all) and has been available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for some time. (And those of you who have read it and liked it, please feel free to leave a review on either of those sites. For those who read it and didn’t like it, please feel free to leave a nice review for a Tom Hopkins or Jeffrey Gitomer book).

As I give speeches about the Trailblazed Sales Project Study, I’ve been asked if the books were available in digital format. I can finally answer “yes.” Trailblazed is now available for Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Nobles Nook, and Apple’s iPod through the Kindle or Nook apps. The eBook version of the Trailblazed includes the exact same content as the real world book, but contains a lot more pixels.

We now return to the regular Alan Katz Health Care Reform blog already in progress.

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Still on Hiatus

Posted by Alan on June 16, 2010

Hello. Just wanted to let you know this blog will be reactived soon — I’m aiming for the first of July. After over two years, roughly 450 posts, and the long health care reform debate, it was time to take a short break. My thanks for the kind notes and inquiries and I look forward to resuming the dialogue in a few weeks.
Thanks,
Alan

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

Trailblazed: Proven Paths to Sales Success

Posted by Alan on April 3, 2010

This is an off-topic post. Way off topic. But I have news to share: my book was published this week. The book, Trailblazed: Proven Paths to Sales Success, describes the findings gleaned from a study I conducted that sought to discover the behaviors and attitudes shared by successful sales people, but not widely practiced by their less successful peers.

The study, which was done in conjunction with Steven Miller, PhD of Miller Marketing Insights, focused on health insurance producers in six states who sell individual, small business and senior coverage. We focused on health insurance brokers for two very simple reasons. First, the study was underwritten by insurance companies and a general agency. Second, by law and regulation, health insurance brokers in a given market sell the same products for the same price. They are prohibited from offering discounts. They cannot alter the terms of the policy. As a result their sales success is based on what they do — and don’t do — rather than on what gimmicks they employ. When it comes to identifying the shared practices of successful producers, you couldn’t ask for a better context than that.

What will not surprise brokers who visit this blog with any regularity is that among the characteristics successful producers share are those that underscore the value brokers add to the health insurance products they sell. These include a commitment to the interests of their clients, a desire to be worthy of the trust those clients place in them, and a dedication to finding the right solution for their prospects’ unique needs.

Even more significantly, it turns out the practices, procedures and perspectives shared by successful producers help them master the massive changes that inevitably impact their business, whether those changes are the result of economic trends, losing a major client or new regulations. Given the need to prepare for the impact of health care reform, I consider this a welcome and reassuring finding.

Trailblazed will soon be available through online vendors such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders (it takes a few weeks for the publisher to get the book into their systems). But the book is available now at  the Trailblazed Sales web siteAs a way of thanking readers of this blog, and to celebrate the launch of the book, from now through the end of April, the book is available at a 10% discount from the list price when purchased through the Trailblazed Sales web site. You can also learn more about the study there.

As most readers know, I write this blog out of a passionate interest in health care reform, as a forum where I can share my views on the topic and benefit from your views and perspectives. This is also where I can offer an occasional insight on an important issue and provide links to what I consider interesting news and useful resources.

This book is not about health care reform. For those sales professionals among you thinking about the future and how to prepare for it, however, my hope is that Trailblazed: Proven Paths to Sales Success will be an additional source of helpful strategies and ideas.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled blog.

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Civility Required Here

Posted by Alan on March 26, 2010

There are plenty of blogs out there where partisans can throw red meat (or blue meat, as the case may be) to their base; blogs where the more outrageous the statements the more praised the writer will be. This is not one of those blogs.

Health care reform generates a great deal of passion and heat. The issues are personal and critical, moral and political, economic and ideological all at once. People have strong feelings and beliefs about America’s health care system. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that – unless it slips into the kind of ugly behavior we’re seeing across the country where vandalism and name-calling seems to be becoming increasingly acceptable.

Because while there’s nothing wrong with being passionate about one’s beliefs, there is something wrong in viewing the other side as less than human, labeling them as socialists or whiners or idiots or what-have-you. Name calling and stereotyping do nothing to shed light on a complex topic. It may make the writer feel better, but it diminishes the debate and the value of this blog.

I’ve let the arguments and venting run for the past few few weeks. First, because I don’t monitor the comments as closely as perhaps I should. Second, because I felt it reflected the anger, jubilation and passion readers feel about what’s happening with health care reform. And third, because I don’t want to stifle open conversations.  I was willing to let some inappropriate comments remain on the site because I didn’t want to stifle the conversation. I did remove some especially offensive comments, but frankly I should have removed more. The tone of the debate on the site has too often slid into an abyss that is neither appropriate nor welcome.

So, as reluctant as I play the role of censor, I’m going to impose a tighter rein on the discussion. Hopefully I won’t swing too far the other way as I truly enjoy the give-and-take that takes place on this blog. The articulate expression of views and perspectives that most commentators provide this blog most of the time is part of its appeal, at least to me.

I very much appreciate that you all take the time to read my posts and share your comments with the small community we’ve created here around the health care reform issue. And I hope you’ll continue to join in the discussion.  When you just have to vent, there’s plenty of other sites available to you. Knock yourself out. But when you’re writing here, please keep it civil.

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments »

Recommend Posts and Comments

Posted by Alan on July 8, 2009

This blog is run on software provided by WordPress.com (it’s very easy to use and I highly recommend it). They just added a new feature that might be interesting for readers: the ability to recommend posts and comments you think other readers might find interesting – or to warn your fellow readers away from them.

As a new feature, WordPress is still working out some of the kinks. For example, the ratings a post or comment receives does not yet appear on the home page of the blog. To see the recommendations – or to make one – you’ll first need to click on the title of a post. According to some of the forums, the WordPress folks are working on getting the recommendations to show on the home page, but it’s not all that easy so it could take some time.

Whether this function enhances the blog remains to be seen, but I figure it’s worth testing out. So please feel free to recommend – or warn against – what you read here, both the posts and the comments. We’ll see how things works out and if folks find it useful, we’ll keep it.

Thanks for reading.
Alan

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Lloyd Baum

Posted by Alan on July 6, 2009

Lloyd Baum loved politics. I believe he spent time in Chicago, which might explain this passion. He loved public policy, especially health care reform, not surprising since he was a health insurance broker. You might disagree with Lloyd, but you couldn’t disregard his sincerity, his commitment and his desire to do the right thing. I’ve known Lloyd for close to 20 years and was consistently amazed at his willingness to get involved, to make a difference.

So it was with sadness that I received the following missive:

In Memoriam

On June 30, 2009, the National Association of Health Underwriters awarded the National Legislative Excellence Award to Lloyd Baum and the Legislative Committee of the Los Angeles Association of Health Underwriters.

On July 2, 2009, Lloyd Baum passed away.

Having won our hearts and inspired our souls, Lloyd Baum, also earned our respect. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Sonya, his family and many friends. Lloyd will be greatly missed and we all know, he will never be replaced.

From the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Association of Health Underwriters, Thank you, Lloyd, This meeting is adjourned.

Lloyd was a good character in every sense of the word. He will indeed be missed.

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Thank You and Happy New Year

Posted by Alan on December 31, 2007

My thanks to all of you who took the time to read this blog in 2007. It’s been a lot of fun creating it and I’m delighted, appreciative and, to be honest, surprised at how many folks stop by to visit.

Health care reform is an issue that generates tremendous passion — and it should. We’re not talking about what the next flavor of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream should be. This debate is about something that impacts everyone’s lives, health and financial well being. 

There’s a natural tension in debates over issues like health care reform. Reasonable people can agree to disagree on how to fix what’s wrong and how to preserve what’s working in the current system. Passionate people can lose patience with the discussion, the seemingly endless negotiations and disagreement. What’s impressed me most about the feedback I’ve received on and about this blog is how readers have engaged in civil discourse without diminishing their passion. Yes, there’s been a few comments that descended to name calling and self-righteousness, but the overwhelming majority have been as thoughtful as they were fervent.

I hope all of you keep your passion and commitment alive in the year ahead. And that you all have a healthy and happy new year.
Alan

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Look Mom. We Made the Post-Dispatch.

Posted by Alan on September 5, 2007

The last post, which dealt with health insurance commissions, was self-serving. This one is self-aggrandizement, pure and simple.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran an article listing five “health care blogs gaining notice in the virtual world.” Don’t ask me how, or why, but this lil’ ol’ blog made the list along with the likes a blog affiliated with the prestigious journal, Health Affairs. Again, I don’t know how they found this blog, but it was gratifying to be included.

While we’re in Me Generation mode, please feel free to add a link from your web site to this one. It will help this blog rank higher in Google, Yahoo, MSN, Technorati and other search engines. That means folks searching for information and insight on health care reform will more easily find the perspective reflected here.

This blog started out as an experiment to see what blogging was all about. It’s turned into a whole lot more. My thanks to all of you who found it and made us almost-but-not-really-famous — at least among the readers of the Post-Dispatch in of St. Louis.

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