Wednesday, August 11, 2010

So what are smart companies doing right now?

Get real and get creative . . .

Real comes first, and this is real: Company job openings fell for the second straight month in June, a sign that hiring isn't likely to pick up in the coming months. Businesses aren't adding enough new workers to bring down the unemployment rate, currently 9.5 percent. Why? Because the government-sponsored "recovery" has been a show and the market is not buying it, not anymore. This is not to say it won't continue to try and print its way out of the recession (or avoid the next one) but only that it has never worked and isn't likely to work this time. Indeed, recent data suggests the second-quarter growth rate was far weaker than initially reported -- so weak that it might even have slipped back into negative territory were it not for federal government spending and inventory building.

Which means what? A likely double-dip.

The last time around there was a reasonable argument that "we didn't see it coming." That argument is no longer reasonable.

And that means companies need to be ready . . . not just in the traditional ways of "cut, cut, cut" via layoffs. After all, most companies have cut to the bone. There's not much left other than red meat.

Which means getting creative on the cost side of fringe benefits . . .

There are dozens of examples and we'll ferret through some of them in this blog, but today's focuses on getting control of medical costs which, by the way, the new government program is not going to accomplish.

One of the most creative alternatives I've seen is called "Travel Surgery." It goes something like this . . .

Medical care in the U.S. is prohibitively expensive and there are lots of darts to throw at the guilty. But, putting the guilty aside for a moment, let's look at reality - medical care, especially surgical care, is far less expensive and just as good in many other countries. Travel surgery is an opportunity to save money on expensive procedures like knee and hip replacements, hysterectomies and open heart surgeries that put many self-insured medical plans far into the red every year.

Examples: Sending employees to India can lower surgical costs on average by 80%. In the U.K., prices are about 25% less even after you take into account airfare and hotel. Mexico has many world-class hospitals and doctors that charge 30-40% of the going U.S. rate.

California-based medical travel facilitator PlanetHospital has specialized in overseas health care since 2002. Of the 21 countries in its network, the top recommendations include Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico.

Besides having hospitals with international accreditation, these countries also have a less onerous visa process with minimum savings to employers of at least 50%.

Are there hurdles? Sure, not the least of which is convincing employees to take a "surgical vacation." But, if employers begin the process now, they will be in a position of saving big dollars when they need them the most.

Learn more about Travel Surgery at:


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