First task – get checked in at #shrm14. The speaker instructions say “go to room 309”. I ask the guards, and they point me ahead. The last one, as i get close, looked a little puzzled but led me to the door, then blocked my entry.


It’s a Women’s bathroom.

Re-reading my instructions, i head to Room 309A. Note to self. Details appear to be important.


Well, 2014 appears to be a different kind of animal. Over time, the SHRM annual conference has become a bit of a predictable right of passage. That ends now. With the announcement this month of the significant change in certification, everybody seems to be a little bit on edge. People want answers, and the communication so far has been a bit jumbled.

It’s Sunday morning. In a few hours, the stage opens and the play begins. At the moment, all of the actors are in the shadows waiting to step forward and explained it all to us. I can’t wait!



Today, the clouds parted and sanity returned.

I was driving and the news noted that a Republican House Member was introducing a bill that would move the 30 hour threshold for part-time people to get health coverage up to 40 hours. A rational move! From a member of the party opposed to anything that had “Obama” in the label.

If we are truly moving to repair, not replace, then we have turned a significant corner. We need to adjust this law, and make the bad parts better. And, remember, we need to have a law with flexibility. One size does not fit all.

Each of us has luggage, a beverage, and a smart phone...but we are different.

Each of us has luggage, a beverage, and a smart phone…but we are different.

Hello, my name is Karl, and I love insurance. (group: Welcome, Karl)

I’m a self-described insurance geek, and I have been for years. My family has learned to not involve me in the planning of family events, as I enjoy predicting exactly what will go wrong during activities. I call it risk management, they call it irritating.

In the pie charts of projected ACA coverage, one slice really bothers me. I have always wondered who the people in the “Still No Insurance” slice are. What would push someone to NOT have insurance? I’m enough of an insurance geek and risk manager I just couldn’t fathom it. Fresh data came out on September 30, 2013 from Gallup: they surveyed more than 5000 uninsured Americans of various types, and asked whether they plan to get insurance or pay the fine for not doing so. 65 percent said they would get health insurance, 25 percent said they wouldn’t.

I wanted to find out who these risk scofflaws are that reject everything I hold dear. I didn’t have to look far – I found an example behind the counter at my local camera store. The head cashier has always been very cordial and efficient, an apparently intelligent person with a basic, professional mindset. Or so I thought.

I was wearing my dress shirt with “Gregory & Appel Insurance”. She overheard me talking with the owner about the opening of the Marketplaces and how it may affect their options. She pointed to the logo on my shirt and announced “I will never get health insurance, no matter what they say. I’m healthy, I don’t go to doctors and I certainly don’t need insurance. Not gonna do it.” Wow. That stopped me in my tracks.

Maybe I’m too close to it. Maybe I know too much. I spend hours each day keeping up with the flood of details involved in constructing the health insurance delivery systems. I work on crafting explanations for business, and communication materials to help the buying public understand the subject. I felt all of that crumbling as I faced an actual insurance denier.
I tried a question. “What if you get hit by a bus, and are injured for life. What then?” “My family will take care of me. We take care of our own. Besides, I’m very careful, and won’t get hit,” she said.

“What about auto insurance. Do you believe in that?” “No. I only have the minimum, and wouldn’t have that if I could get away with it. Just like my health, I never have accidents.” Her voice was rising in pitch.

“I sense you’re angry about all of this,” I noted. “Where does that anger come from?” “Why should those of us who are healthy and safe and good drivers help the ones who aren’t? Why should I help pay for the health claims of sick people, if I never get sick?” I asked if she might feel different if she was 50 and asthmatic, rather than 30 and no chronic conditions. “Ask me then. I don’t intend to be sick.”

“Okay, I get it. You’re independent. Do you consider yourself a part of a society that helps each other, or a nation of one?”
“Since I don’t want help, and I don’t need help, I guess I think all Americans should take care of themselves. We shouldn’t need to help each other. I think insurance is just a scam in general, as is welfare.”

Ah. A fiercely independent citizen who resents helping others. We’re seeing a lot of those these days, and it may explain a lot about the slice of the pie that will still be on the outside of the health insurance system in the future. I had one final thought, just to confirm my observations.
“So, am I correct that you would make a poor lifeguard? You wouldn’t want to get wet to save a drowning stranger?” She paused, thought, shrugged, and said “I Guess so. They should have learned to swim. Not my problem, that’s not a job I’d ever take.”

About one in six Americans is without health insurance. It will be interesting to see how that number trends as the marketplaces open and the ACA comes on line. I will be asking that clerk about her status and insurance outlook every time I visit, and will report back if any wisdom emerges over time.

I’m optimistic about most things, but…

A good marketing idea works on several levels, right?

So, i picked up dry cleaning this morning. They offered a nice cup of fresh coffee with my order. Happy to! A few minutes later the lid leaked a little, and i had to change shirts.

Brilliant on their part – give a gift that causes more use of your service. Kind of like a dentist offering hard candy…


I wish you could have been there.  I was riding an airport shuttle on a recent business trip, and reluctantly started a conversation with the guy in the sport coat and trendy tie next to me.  I say reluctantly, as you never know how these conversations can go.

We traded answers on “What do you do?”  He: Policy Consultant for the US Government.  Me: Human Resources Consultant.

He perked up.  “Say, do you know much about Obama Care?”  I shrugged and offered I might.  “I’ve been working with a bunch of policy wonks in a think tank for 9 months, and none of them can explain the real purpose of the Affordable Care Act.  Frustrating.”

We were approaching the end of the bus ride.  As we stood up to get out, I turned to him and said: “It’s really quite simple.  The act intends to give existing insurance companies slightly more than 30 million new customers, many of whom are healthy.  For that, the insurance companies have to take everyone.  No exclusions, no carve outs, no lifetime caps.”  I stepped out of the bus.

He caught me at the next door.  “Is it really that simple?”

I kept walking and he kept up.  “Of course not.  But you asked what the purpose was, and that’s it – expanding coverage.  If you read the whole law – and I have – every sentence can be put in one of three categories.  Expanding coverage, improving quality of care, or finding ways to pay for it.”

He blinked and stopped.  He had an honest look of wonder on his face.  “Who ARE you?”  I shrugged.  “Just some guy…”

As I walked off, he said “You should get on television and tell that to the American People…”  I smiled and waved.  My good deed for the day.

My takeaway?  There needs to be more and better communication out there about these issues, done in ways that are tailored to each audience.   Experts like his policy wonks in the think tanks are too close.

When you’re inside the bottle, you can’t read the label.

Man on the street - explaining Obamacare, one citizen at a time...

Man on the street – explaining Obamacare, one citizen at a time…

Just came in off the road from several conferences. My brother noted that the customer service motto for most modern airlines appears to be “…We’re not happy ’till your’re not happy.”


A comment on modern air travel

Over here! Help! Heloooo! Over here!