Will Obamacare help us compete internationally?

There seems to be relatively little discussion about what all of this will do to our global competitiveness

I attended NHBR’s Health Care Forum on Oct. 1. Stanley Hupfeld and the panelists provided some interesting perspectives on Obamacare and its implementation. We’ve long heard that if we could eliminate some of the waste in health care, the savings would be more than enough to fund this massive program.

For instance, Hupfeld said 25 percent of health care costs are for collecting receivables. The billing processes are so convoluted and complex that institutions employ small armies to collect their revenues.

He also showed health care is not “market-driven,” despite all the claims.

If you think about it, who of us would get a quadruple bypass just because someone was having a sale? And if we needed one, we might be looking for the best, rather than the cheapest, provider.

Even so, despite a good forum, nobody looked very happy leaving. It’s almost like there was a major concern, which was never articulated.

Although a lot of discussions and articles have raised important considerations, there seems to be relatively little discussion about what all of this will do to our ability to compete internationally.

Some organizations are wondering, “Will we be able to keep our operations in the U.S or be forced to outsource even more? Will we have to lay off even more people to generate a profit?”

Yes, I know we don’t hear much about these questions because such deliberations are always very secret. No company wants the word to get out too soon. They might lose key people before they’re ready.

Even though the forum panelists included insurance providers as well as consumers, neither seemed to compete internationally for their customers. The somber faces with whom I spoke wonder what will happen to their competitive positions in other countries.

Politics aside, Obamacare dramatically increases the costs of having employees in this country by nobody knows how much. Yes, there are initial figures, but just look at Medicare and Medicaid costs over time to see how quickly those numbers grew.

Some companies are already throwing in the towel. UPS announced it would no longer cover the families of employees. Delta Airlines claims Obamacare will cost it $100 million. Even blue-chip IBM is working towards doing away with providing health insurance benefits directly. We hear more and more that companies will give employees stipends to purchase their insurance on the open market.

Lost aura

Health care benefits have long been a differentiator, enabling the better companies to hire the people they want. Do we even comprehend what taking health care out of the equation really means?

Nor is the irony of us instituting a massive health care program on the very day we begin a government shutdown lost on the international community. They know we’re running out of money. Whether you look at Snowden or Syria, you know Putin and others have little respect for us. We may not be dealing with Putin, but many foreign businesspeople have lost respect for us as well.

Back in the ‘80’s, when I first started working internationally, there was a certain deference for Americans. It has long since disappeared. Now they practically think of us as basket cases. We’ve lost our aura. It makes it very difficult to negotiate reasonable terms.

Admittedly, there may not be much we can do about Obamacare at this point. What we really have to do is find more efficient and effective ways to do our jobs. The overhead burdens we’ve been carrying have just increased significantly, and we have to find ways to add value offsetting those costs, if we want to keep our jobs.

In my experience, it’s too late when a company announces they’re moving operations offshore. The announcement comes after the deal is done. We have to find ways to make off shoring less attractive to our employers. Just because we’re not hearing about it doesn’t mean they’re not considering it. Again, it tends to be a very secret process.

I’m not suggesting working even more hours. That often reduces our ability to improve anything and leads to burnout. What we really need are “killer apps” to get more done, even better, in less time. We’ve probably bought most of what’s on the market. Now we need to develop more and learn to use what we have even better.

Some of the necessary development might be within ourselves. For instance, a little more discipline to keep us focused on the most productive uses of our time can make a big difference. Somehow we have to get better.

Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Windham, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871 or RonBourque@myfairpoint.net.

Categories: Business Advice