Gearhart Jr. Helps Break Through the Status Quo

This story originally appeared in the mid-October print edition of the Youngstown Business Journal

By: Sarah Kelley

October 24, 2017

Bob Gearhart Jr. is bringing transparency to two of the most opaque industries in the United States – health care and employee benefits – in a newly published book Breaking Through the Status Quo.

“We’re changing the industry and the way it operates,” says Gearhart, partner at DCW Group in Boardman. The book has 32 chapters written by members of the NextGeneration Benefits Network. The network is a group of 33 independent agency owners from across the Unites States who meet quarterly to share ideas and improve how the employee benefits and health care industries conduct business.

One way the network challenges the status quo is looking at why health care has become more expensive every year and then showing employers and advisers fresh perspectives on reducing costs. Members decided to compile the book at their spring meeting and launched it in September at the Employee Benefits Forum and Expo in Boca Raton, Fla.

“The book is a wake-up call for our industry,” says Andy Neary, healthcare strategist at Captivated Health based in Denver. “With an industry that has been stuck in the status quo, the book is refreshing because it gears the readers to a completely different perspective for health insurance.” Neary wrote a chapter titled “The Medical ID Card,” which he called the “riskiest credit card in America.”

Gearhart wrote Chapter 9, “Lessons Learned,” in which he discusses how employers, if they knew how to leverage data, could lower their heath-care costs and offer their employees better benefits that would help them retain their workforces.

He relates three stories – all true – about companies outside the insurance and benefits industry that parallel what consumers of health insurance face. “People who have no idea about benefits can pick the book up, read it and understand it,” Gearhart says.

After each brief story Gearhart highlights a section for employers, providing more information related to what they just read. He explains how having full transparency of all the data available should help the company make better decisions.

“Data is the great equalizer that allows us to bridge the gap between what we suspect is the correct course of action and what we can prove is the best course of action,” he writes. Employers need to demand full transparency of data from anyone who sells, provides, or consumes employee benefits, Gearhart says, whether an insurance broker, consultant, carrier or wellness provider. By sharing data, everyone involved can better measure, manage and alter the healthcare plan.

“Break it down. Find what’s driving the cost and attack those areas,” he says. “Doing what you’ve always done and expecting a different result is no longer acceptable in employee benefits. It’s hurting the American worker by causing them to pay more out of their check just to access the healthcare system,” Gearhart says.

Since 2005, the cost of health care has risen faster than workers’ wages, a new study by Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker finds. The study shows deductible spending for health insurance rose 229% from 2005 to 2015 while wages rose only 31%.

In Gearhart’s chapter, he charts the value of the four largest publicly traded health insurers from the outset of health care reform in 2010 through today. All enjoy share price increases that range from 295% to 571%. Employers resent the steep rise in costs as much as their employees. Both feel hampered because they have fewer dollars to spend elsewhere and see no improvement in coverage.

“As an employer, you have to be able to differentiate yourself and your company, and benefits are a huge reason why people will take jobs. It’s not something exclusive to the Valley. It’s an epidemic everywhere,” Gearhart says.

List price of the book is $27.95. Those interested in buying a copy can go to www.dcwgrp.com/book. DCW Group will provide complementary copies to the first 500 people who sign up.