CEO to CEO: Decision Changes and Healthcare Costs

Changing your mind at work and managing employee healthcare costs.

When was the last time you changed your mind in a significant way at work?

When we launched our new online resource library, I was absolutely certain that we should limit access to only the highest tier of membership to prove the value proposition for that level of membership. I was worried that nobody would join at the higher level if we allowed individual members to access the same information. My director of professional affairs and I debated this for weeks, and she finally convinced me that the value for all would come from greater participation by a wide variety of people. I wasn’t sure when I allowed myself to be swayed by her argument, but the data on new top-tier memberships that have come in since the launch of the resource library have definitely convinced me that this was the right thing to do!

—Lydia M. Middleton, CAE, president and CEO, Association of University Programs in Health Administration, Arlington, Virginia. Email: [email protected]

I recently pondered some decisions I made regarding our annual meeting. I helped the board make a decision that later turned out to be ill advised. Being a somewhat new executive, I really doubted my abilities. Shortly after the decision, a member called to have lunch. He asked if, given what I knew when I advised the board, would I still offer the same decision? Was it after that point that it became evident there was a better course of action? I realized that it was after the decision that new information came to light. Leadership is not always about being right. It’s doing our best with what we have, with the intention of doing the right thing.

—Ronald Painter, president and CEO, National Association of Workforce Boards, Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]

I instituted a change team to meet, lead, and inspire the changes necessary to realize the different initiatives laid out in our new strategic plan. The team was made up of a number of individuals from across our operations, not only by people in positions of power but also people who were respected in their work and in their thinking. I was chairing the team, and after careful consideration I changed my mind. I realized that I could be more effective by not chairing the team and just making sure the key initiatives were properly resourced and championed. This will be a more effective use of my time rather than actually chairing the change team. It was a difficult decision because I felt that I was “abandoning my baby,” but I ultimately realized that it was the best decision.

—John D.V. Hoyles, CEO, Canadian Bar Association, Ottawa, Ontario. Email: [email protected]

In a half-kidding but half-serious way, I’d say every day! The world moves so fast. Issues, circumstances, trends, and so forth are changing all the time. If one has a prayer of keeping up, I believe it’s necessary to trade the comfort (and clarity) of firm positions for the permission to change or revise our positions often. (Note: I’m talking about changing our perspectives, not our values.)

An example of a truly significant change I’ve recently made concerns my decision to contract out a number of our business functions (human resources, IT, and meeting planning). I used to think that we needed to do everything in house. I now understand that through outsourcing we can access greater expertise in certain workplace functions for less cost. While outsourcing these functions isn’t a panacea, it can represent a prudent business practice if done thoughtfully.

—Nelson Fabian, executive director and CEO, National Environmental Health Association, Denver, Colorado. Email: [email protected]

If your association offers employee health insurance benefits, what are you doing to manage rising costs?

We’ve tried to try to keep the burden off the employees as long as possible. We have always paid 100 percent of the employee premium, although this can’t continue indefinitely. Several years ago we went from a $1,000 to a $2,500 deductible and funded a health savings account at $2,500 per employee. Last year, we only funded the health savings account for $2,000. So while the employee is still not paying a premium, the benefit was reduced. This year we’re facing a 40 percent increase with our current carrier. Don’t know what we’re going to do—proposals are due next week—but we are not in a position to absorb that kind of increase.

—Eve Becker-Doyle, executive director, National Athletic Trainers Association, Dallas, Texas. Email: [email protected]

We offer fully paid health insurance for our full-time employees. It has been a valued benefit and a key component of a successful employee-retention plan. That said, the rising costs are and remain an issue. Our organization uses a professional employer organization to “employ” our employees to give us large company benefits for a small staff. We also focus on a wellness culture in the organization to encourage staff to live healthy with a direct, albeit anecdotal, impact on our healthcare costs.

—Lawrence J. Lynch, CAE, president, Environmental Association Management Partners, Orlando, Florida. Email: [email protected]

We provide health insurance with the association covering most, but not all, of the premium. We saw an increase in premium this year of more than 40 percent. It has been helpful to us and the employees to make sure that they are aware of the health savings account option. In some cases, an employee may be able to take advantage of a high-deductible HSA plan, and if the premium is lower than traditional insurance, the employer has the option of contributing the difference into an HSA for the employee.

—Kim B. Stoneking, CAE, executive director, National Private Duty Association, Indianapolis, Indiana. Email: [email protected]

Being an under-50-employee group in New York, we were looking at a 35 percent increase in rates. With all of the economic issues, we had to pass on some of the cost to our employees. Ultimately, we were able to get a better plan to ease the blow of reducing the total benefits for employees.

—Andrej Suskavcevic, CAE, CEO, Commercial Finance Association, New York, New York. Email: [email protected]

Online Extra: What makes a leader great?

This month, Barry Barresi, executive director of the American Optometric Association, shares his answer to “What makes a leader great?”