May 9, 2017

Engineer is Human


While over at my alma mater, Wabash College recently interviewing candidates for our Sales & Marketing Intern position, I was asked by a Sophmore candidate, “What exactly do you do as an Advisor at Apex Benefits?” I said without hesitation, “that’s a great question!”

I immediately flipped our day-long itinerary over on the desk and on a blank page, drew a rectangle. I filled in the rectangle with squiggly lines depicting a puzzle. Inside each puzzle piece I wrote a different word: Claims, Stop Loss, Fixed Cost, Plan Design, Utilization, Cost Modeling, Predictive Analytics, Care Gap Indexes, Pharmacy Trend, Total Rewards, so on and so forth.

“Pretend it’s three years from now and you’re a full-time employee of a company who provides you benefits – Health insurance, for example. I’m responsible for engineering that puzzle.”

“Got it. Makes sense.” More than a head-nod response. It genuinely made sense. All in less than 60 seconds.

Easy to interpret. My colleagues & I put it all together and make sure all pieces are aligned with the well constructed strategic plan.

Later that night while faced with the snooze-of-a-drive (32 to 65!) home from Crawfordsville, I started rewinding my puzzle-engineering conversation.

Thought about how putting that puzzle together must have looked like 25 years ago.

Thought about what was needed just 5 years ago compared to what employers face today……The very real workload associated with maintaining compliance with ERISA, HIPAA, COBRA, ACA, FMLA, etc…….)…..The very real razor-thin margin for error associated with managing health risk within a self-funded group.

There’s layers of complexity everywhere you look and the needs of an employer have changed, dramatically. The need for a capable business partner (a health plan engineer!) has never been more important. An absolute necessity. It’s a top five P&L line item expense after all. Often times, 1st or 2nd next to payroll.

You have to have the passion to get things right today. To deliver today – No question. It’s about the details and process this year but, as I pulled into my driveway that night after a day in C-Ville, I reminded myself that what’s good for my clients today, won’t be good enough 2-3 years down-the-road. This approach to innovation and industry leadership is where the true health plan engineering begins.

“Explaining what went wrong…and pointing out changes that would have worked is a lot easier than catching a mistake in a design yet to be realized.” -From To Engineer is Human by Henry Petroski

Scott Long

Authored By

Scott Long, CPBS, CHVP, CSFS

Executive Advisor


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