Employee Benefits

You don’t have rabies!

Julie Rickman
Julie Rickman
Sr. Client Service Consultant, ACAP Health

Recently, a friend of mine’s son, who, in a moment of teenage wisdom, decided the best way to get a scared, angry opossum out of the barn was to pick it up and gently set it outside. The opossum did not agree and made that fact quite clear as it sunk its yellowing teeth deep in the arm of the startled boy. The initial trip to their primary care provider resulted in cleaning the wound and steering them to an urgent care for a rabies shot. The urgent care facility, which was closed when they first arrived, sent them to the ER. After waiting in the ER for several hours (with a good share of tears shed), my friend’s son was convinced he was getting thirstier and his mouth was starting to foam. An exhausted ER doctor examined him for less than a minute, sighed loudly, and declared “You don’t have rabies.”

OK Julie, what does this have to do with working for a municipality? Well, just like that opossum in the barn, there’s always a chance of being bitten, especially if you reach for a goal without thinking of the unintended consequences. We know it’s important to make thoughtful (and sometimes tough) decisions for a widely diverse population, understanding how visible the choices you make are not only within your organization, but in the public eye. Sometimes it’s difficult to make any changes, let alone difficult ones, knowing that your local blogger has a keyboard at the ready or that the choices made could end up on the 10 o’clock news.

Challenges for public entities are different from private sector employers — from purchasing to politics, public exposure, and opossums. Wait, maybe not that last one. But, we know working in a public entity is really like working with a multitude of micro organizations. Public works doesn’t have the same need as civil service or animal control.

The point is, yes, public entity clients are unique, but you don’t have to get bitten every day. Before we pick up the opossum, let’s figure out what we’re trying to solve. Moving the animal — or moving the needle in your healthcare spend — might be our end goal, but let’s carefully plan before we make changes. What benchmark data from other municipalities is truly relevant for plan changes we are making? What are we doing with the data we’re requesting? And what’s this going to cost us?

And, if you do get bitten, how do you react? Rather than drive all over town panicking and looking for a solution, stop, take a deep breath, ask questions, and do some research about how we can figure out a solution before it becomes a bigger problem. What types of communication do we need to get to our employees? Do we need to put something on our website explaining why we did what we did? Do we need to have a conversation with a carrier and change the way we process things?

Lastly, in the future, before you even think about changes, are your partnering with people who understand how you do business? Do they have a dedicated team who works just with public entities? Do they get how procurement and the sealed bid process works? Do they understand the diversity of your population and how one size does not fit all? Do they know that decisions can have longer lead times if legal, leadership, or a court/council/board are involved?

Holmes Murphy has a team of public entity experts. We get it — it’s hard, it’s a little scary, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. Being visible and accounting for taxpayer dollars adds a whole new layer of complexity to how you do business, but it can be done incredibly successfully. Just partner with the right folks, take the time you need to make thoughtful decisions, and most importantly, remember, you don’t have rabies.

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