Healthcare Reform – An Update

Healthcare Reform is upon us! Are you and your company ready? Yesterday, our local SHRM chapter hosted out monthly meeting where a local benefits administrator, Palmetto Benefit Management (www.PalmettoBenefit.com), gave us a comprehensive update of the legislation; where it is, what is next and how to prepare. I thought I knew about the upcoming changes, but I quickly realized that I need to get on the stick and learn more about what to expect.

To date several pieces have been implemented including dependent coverage to age 26, no caps or maximums for coverage and the requirement of a dedicated lactation room.  Fortunately, we already had a dedicate lactation room but this could be a challenge for some workplaces since there are specific parameters that must be met. And the addition of  dependents to age 26 can cause some significant cost increases for some plans. Be sure that you are adhering or you will when your next open enrollment happens. There are also many  changes in the hopper for 2012, 2013 and 2014 as long as future legislation does not change their timeline or verbiage. Check with your benefits team or counsel to make sure you know how each stage will impact your organization.

Currently, there are several lawsuits in various stages contesting different parts of the Healthcare Reform laws. These include the Medical Loss Ratios (MLRs) and the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) as well as suits contesting the Constitutionality of the whole or parts of the Healthcare Reform law. But until there is a formal decision or legislative vote, the bill is law and needs to administered and followed in its current form. Companies should (or already have) determine their healthcare band position, plan options and which employee(s) will be grandfathered.

There is little doubt that there will be no changes up to, during and after the 2012 elections. In 2012, there are several congressional seats up for election as well as the Presidency. A new administration would and could have significant impact of the course of the law and any new measures that are implemented. If President Obama remains in office, the Healthcare Reform legislation will more than likely remain the law of the land in some form.

The Healthcare Reform law continues to be fluid and has changed very recently. For example, on August 1, 2011, contraception was added to the list of free preventative services under
the law. What will be next? There are many ways to stay on top of the changes like joining benefits organizations like WorldatWork (www.WorldatWork.org) and the International Federation of Employee Benefit Plans (www.IFEBP.org). For more information, please check out http://www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform and www.Healthcare.gov.

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Developing Leadership Skills

One would think that working in HR would give HR professionals great insight into the best ways to interview and look for positions. Ironically, this is not always the case. Most of the time HR professionals are swamped with work and don’t have the time (or sometimes the energy) to hone their skills in their own arena. This can lead to gaps in professional development and when that great opportunity comes available, HR professionals can fall short. If you are like me, it is hard to develop some of these areas while at work (just too darn busy!), so I need to find ways to polish my skills through other venues.

About 3 years ago, I started on a development binge, so to speak. I dove headfirst into all extracurricular HR activities I could find locally including memberships, certification and education. I immersed myself in total rewards, employee relations, recruiting and staffing management to get the most knowledge and experience under my belt. Fortunately, I had lots of practical experience through my work in many of the competencies of HR. As my knowledge increased so did my confidence level and I started to be seen as a “go to” person for many things HR. But I was lacking in one main area. In order to make it to my next step in my career goals, I needed to build my leadership skills and opportunities to build this type of experience were limited in my organization. So, I came up with some different ideas.

When I was studying for my SPHR in early 2008, I was a member of my local SHRM chapter’s, Coastal Organization of Human Resources (COHR), study group. The certification chair allowed me to take the helm and help put together and run some of our study sessions. This was an opportunity for me to both learn the material and develop leadership capabilities outside the traditional workplace setting and gave the certification chair the ability to concentrate on their own life and responsibilities. It was a win-win that helped both of us.

Fast forward to when the incoming President of COHR was assembling the 2009 Board of Directors. I was approached to serve as the certification chair, a role I was honored to be offered and happily accepted. This gave me the chance to join a leadership team consisting of my HR peers including many I viewed as mentors. I quickly took on additional duties including community outreach and scholarship coordination that helped me gain additional experience. It was a lot of work but I was happy to be learning and gained a greater understanding of being a proactive leader. Additionally, I used the opportunity to also study for and achieve my GPHR certification in 2009.

During the summer of 2009, the 2009 President Elect approached me to serve in the role of President Elect in 2010. This required a 3 year commitment (2010 President Elect, 2011 President and 2012 Past President) and included chairing COHR’s SHRM Foundation commitments and developing and executing the annual Executive Session event held in October. This was the opportunity I was looking for! I garnered the necessary support from my employer and happily started in the role in January 2010. Serving the members of COHR has given me multiple chances to build my leadership skills and learn how to interact with a Board in a non-HR role. This has lead to other prospects including attending several national and local SHRM Leadership Conferences and serving as Chair of the Compensation Committee for our local United Way chapter. And I love every minute of it!

So, when you see the email from your organization’s leadership asking for volunteers, think about throwing your hat in. Start off small or jump in feet first – whichever works best for you. I have found it to be one of the most valuable expansion opportunities I have ever had.

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Celebrating COHR’s Commitment to Diversity

As an HR professional, I know and see the value of Diversity in the workplace and support the business case for it. However there are times I need to be reminded of the need for Diversity in other areas, namely professional and civic organizations. My SC local SHRM affiliate, Coastal Organization of Human Resources (COHR – www.CoastalHR.org) hosted our annual Diversity program at our monthly general meeting today. We were happy to have a great learning session hosted by our Diversity Chair, Kimmy Raymond. Training a group of HR professionals on Diversity can be a daunting task even for the most seasoned trainer, but Kimmy did an excellent job! The meeting was thought-provoking and full of energy. Kimmy shared anecdotes and facets from her background and experience as a corporate and contractual trainer and even took us through a Privilege Exercise that shed light on perceived differences and how they impact other’s views on us. It really brought about a better feeling of understanding among our members and guests. Kudos to Kimmy and her skills!

Earlier this year, I tasked the COHR Board of Directors (I am the 2011 President of COHR) with developing a brand and mission statement – more on that in future posts – for the organization and Kimmy volunteered to lead this charge. Last month she put together a comprehensive survey and sent it to our general membership to get their buy in on various issues and ideas pertaining to their COHR membership and their expectations of the Board. The responses were overwhelming and resulted in over 20 pages of compiled data. Kimmy incorporated the results of the survey and shared some highlights during her presentation focusing on the Diversity attributes from the study. The feedback was met with positive energy and continued to fuel the Diversity theme of our meeting. Diversity is a vital piece of any brand and mission and will surely play a key role in the creation of our COHR Brand. Thanks, again, Kimmy!

For more information on COHR and our commitment to Diversity, please email me at John@JohnHWilliamson.com.

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