Alliance CEO Roundtables

The Alliance recently invited CEOs and other senior executives to roundtables in Janesville, Wis.; Madison, Wis.; Reedsburg, Wis.; Rockford, Ill.; and Watertown, Wis. A total of 42 leaders from 36 companies came to discuss their top priorities and concerns about health care and health benefits.

Workforce Issues Top the List

Five broad themes emerged.

  1. Finding and keeping good employees is tough and getting tougher. Employers face challenges linked to recruiting and retaining employees at all levels. This includes employees who are skilled and unskilled in the manufacturing, service, technical and professional sectors. Health benefits matter because they are part of the compensation package used to compete for employees.
    Some employers reported that prospective employees are often unable to pass drug tests, which makes the worker shortage more acute. They cited the opioid epidemic as a factor.
  2. Managing benefits for workers from different generations – and at different salary levels – is another challenge. Employees are likely to value different things based on their circumstances. Their priorities change based on whether they are younger or older; healthier or sicker; or have earnings at the higher or lower end of the pay scale.
  3. Controlling costs remains a priority. Employers want solutions that control costs for:
    • Pharmacy, including specialty pharmacy.
    • The 10 percent of plan participants that account for 80 to 90 percent of costs.
    • Rising unit prices for health care services. Employers are aware that studies show we pay more for care when doctors and hospitals consolidate into larger systems, which is an ongoing trend in our marketplace.
    • Workers’ compensation medical services. Wisconsin employers see potential for getting relief from the fee schedule which will be considered by lawmakers during the current legislative session.
  4. Educating and encouraging employees/plan participants to do their part is an important strategy.
    Employers want employees/plan participants…

    • To maintain or improve their health
    • To use health care services appropriately
    • To become aware of and help manage the cost
  5. Employers want to use incentives to achieve results, but have questions about implementation:
  • What’s legal?
  • What’s effective?
  • What are the right measures on which to base incentives? (e.g. Not all overweight people are unhealthy.)

Applying CEO Insights

I want to thank everyone who took the time to participate in one of the roundtables. We value your insights and perspectives and we’ll use what we learned to shape our work over the coming months. If you have something to add to this list of themes, please let me know! [Send an email to Cheryl.]



Cheryl DeMars

Cheryl DeMars

President & CEO at The Alliance
Cheryl DeMars joined The Alliance in 1992, assuming several roles before becoming CEO in December 2006. Cheryl works with the Board of Directors and senior leadership team to establish the strategic direction of the cooperative.

Cheryl participates in a number of national and regional initiatives that align with The Alliance’s mission of controlling costs, improving quality and engaging individuals in their health. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the board of the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality.

Prior to joining The Alliance, Cheryl was a program manager at Meriter Hospital in Madison. She earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Cheryl DeMars

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