To 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 3 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 are 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