Archive for the ‘LineSync Architecture’ category

Group prepares for health care changes coming in next two years

November 28, 2012
Deerfield Valley News Article
by Jack Deming
Participants in a panel discussion on health care included, from left, Robin Lunge, Kevin Goddard, Julie Lineberger, and Bram Kleppner.

Participants in a panel discussion on health care included, from left, Robin Lunge, Kevin Goddard, Julie Lineberger, and Bram Kleppner.

WEST DOVER-Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility held their 20th annual fall conference at Mount Snow Wednesday, November 14, with an opening plenary panel session aimed at answering questions business owners have about changes coming to Vermont’s health care system.

VBSR’s mission as a nonprofit, statewide business trade organization is to advance business ethics that value economic, social, and environmental bottom lines through education, public influence, and workplace quality. This panel was an educational component, preparing business owners for the changes that come with the 2013 and 2014 federal mandates under the Affordable Care Act. As Bram Kleppner, co-chair of the Medicaid and exchange advisory board said, “VBSR has had a long-standing position to always advocate for changes in our health care system. Between Obamacare and Green Mountain Care, we’re moving in some very different directions, and some very positive ones. Now we are at the point where all of us as members, businesses, and organizations need to figure out how to execute and implement the changes that are coming to us.”

Kleppner served as moderator for a panel that included Robin Lunge, Vermont Director of Health Care Reform, Julie Lineberger, a member of the Green Mountain Advisory Board and Medicaid and exchange advisory board, and Kevin Goddard, vice president of external affairs and sales for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont.

Lunge began the session by explaining the health care exchange that Vermont is required to construct before January 1, 2014. With an exchange, Vermonters and small businesses will be able to shop for insurance on Vermont Health Connect, a website that provides apples-to-apples comparisons of different insurance products. “There are not many fundamental changes to health insurance under the federal law,” said Lunge. “It’s a way for consumers to have easier access to shopping tools.” Lunge also said that as of October 1, 2013, individuals and businesses could begin using Vermont Health Connect.

Insurance plans provided through the exchange will be required to feature essential health benefit packages, co-pays, and deductibles. People who do not purchase insurance beginning in 2014 will be fined with a tax penalty. Lunge said that individuals will still be allowed to purchase insurance through private brokers. However the exchange makes the process easier, and creates a more stable environment for companies to insure their employees. “For those of you who have been in small group insurance where you have small businesses clustered together and you have just a couple of really ill people in a year, it could really increase your rates, so the idea is a bigger pool stabilizes across a larger population.”

Lineberger, who is also a Wilmington business owner, thinks that it is important for business owners to talk to their employees individually, to hear their concerns, and know how the changes to health care will affect them. She also said that de-coupling insurance and employment is a direction health insurance must move toward. With the Affordable Care Act requiring subsidization of insurance premiums for individuals in households with incomes up to 400% of the poverty line, Lineberger says it creates confusion. “It’s important for us to provide insurance to our employees, but what does this mean?” said Lineberger. “It might be more responsible not to offer insurance on two levels. One, because it would be better coverage for our employees, and two, because health care should be de-coupled from employment. You shouldn’t have to be coupled to your employer to get the coverage you need.”

Small businesses, those with 50 employees or fewer, face a tax penalty should they not offer health insurance to their employees through the exchange. The panel spent time exploring the pros and cons of de-coupling insurance and employers. Kleppner asked, if the tax penalty a business is charged is lower than the amount it would cost to insure employees, and employees can purchase insurance through the exchange along with subsidies and tax credits, is it more sensible to not offer insurance? Kleppner says this issue has become more important with the federal definition of a small business going from 50 employees to 100 employees or fewer. Kleppner said that in Vermont, a business with 100 employees or fewer isn’t exactly a small business.

New out-of-pocket maximums, or the total amount an insurance company requires an individual to pay toward the cost of his/her health care, have also put the squeeze on businesses. “If we choose to stop offering insurance, the question we face is if we have been subsidizing employees’ insurance to some extent, do we continue somehow to subsidize their costs so that the individual costs don’t go away, even though the total costs may go down?” said Kleppner. “It’s a business by business decision, but it’s a complicated choice.”

Another feature of Vermont’s health care exchange that will benefit businesses is portability. If an employee purchases health insurance through an employer and leaves one job for another that does not offer insurance, they can keep their same plan as an individual. Lunge said instead of automatic disenrollment due to a change in one’s life circumstances, “Portability will encourage a continuity of care and make sure that people’s health conditions are kept under control and they don’t lose their insurance.”

Lunge says the goal of health care reform must focus on leaving a for-profit system where quality and quantity of care do not equal out. “If you look at the United States as compared to other developed countries, we spend in some instances twice as much as other countries but our outcomes are not as good, so we’re paying more and we’re getting less. What we’re focusing on is how we get to a more sustainable and cost-effective system.”

Lineberger believes one way to ensure quality health care is to focus on individual needs. This includes making payment for services easier by combining multiple procedures in one bill in a system called bundling. “ Bundling puts the onus on care providers to work as a team to create the best outcome for each particular situation,” said Lunge. “A standard procedure for knee replacement may require 20 physical therapy appointments. But some people may need 12 and others may need 30. What this does is let providers create a package for the individual so they’re not wasting money, but providing better after-care because the worst thing for that entity would be if that person needed to be re-hospitalized.”

Kleppner believes the exchange will help businesses and the individual. “We all know people who need their jobs because of the insurance, and that’s just a terrible situation to force someone into. I’m very hopeful this reform will unleash a lot of entrepreneurial energy and creativity because people won’t have to be chained to an employer because of insurance.”

Read more: Deerfield Valley News – Group prepares for health care changes coming in next two years


WDEV Interview: Smart Business Wednesday 2.8.12

February 23, 2012

Socially Responsible Human Resource Practices:  Building a Team with Limited Resources!

Many folks think building a good, loyal, fabulous staff is all about monetary compensation.  Both scientific and empirical research say this is simply not the case.  For start up businesses, or even established businesses in the current economy, there are many HR policies and practices that can assist a company to enhance and retain its most important asset:  its employees/staff, or as we say at LineSync Architecture, our TEAM.

Early this afternoon (2.8.12) I was interviewed by Carl Eitner of Equal Time Radio regarding Socially Responsible Human Resource (HR) Practices, which is mainly about empowering employees, honoring the people who assist CEOs and Owners grow businesses.  The honoring, it turns out, does not necessarily need to be centered around financial incentives nor rewards.  The number one factor is empowerment, a staff member’s control over her/his own life.

When we started LineSync Architecture almost 23 years ago, the only benefit we could offer was a Paid Birthday Off.  We had just one employee who understood we were a start up company, and he was thrilled that we came up with something we could offer!

For the last 10 years or so, the Team participates in the decision making process whereby a new benefit is added annually.  This team participation in the decision making creates an even more significant impact, according to Team members.

Some our Team inspired Benefits, in order of their arrival:

• Flex Time and/or Condensed Work Week

• Ski Pass Contribution

• Emergency Ski Days

• Annual Appreciation Dinner

• Paid Vacation Time

• Continuing Education/Conference Costs

• Paid Sick Days

In an effort to support healthy lifestyles in our resort community, as well as offer an end of the year bonus, the Ski Pass Contribution came early on.  It was then quite logical for the next Benefit to be Emergency Ski Days  wherein the Studio empties out onto the slopes!

Often decisions are based on the financial situation of the company at the time. Once a Benefit is established, however, it is for perpetuity.

One year the decision to institute an Annual Appreciation Dinner was the most sustainable choice.  Those first few Dinners were in our home with the boss chef and architect server.  We graduated to a catered dinner and finally an event at a local establishment, always with significant others included so people know who folks are referring to!

Often the choices are predictable, as with the year we were able to establish Paid Vacation Time.  Other years the decisions are surprising such as when the Team chose Paid Sick Days over Retirement Accounts, a benefit that  continues to be passed over.

The biggest draw for our Team may just be the awesomely aesthetically pleasing well lit and well ventilated space to spend 6-to-sometimes-10 hours a day in overlooking our vegetable garden and into the woods, contributing to a desirable workplace environment.  However, there are other policies and practices we follow to enhance the work experience of being on the LineSync Architecture Team:
• Company Policies on Equal Pay, Harassment, Ethics
• Job Secure Policy for Improvement Suggestions or Complaints
• Open Book Management on all LineSync Architecture projects
• Participation in New Hire Interviews, choosing new Team members
• Mentoring Opportunities
• Participation in LineSync Architecture Philanthropic Decisions
• Regular Performance Evaluations
• Weekly Wednesday Tea at Three
• Kitchen & Break Room (with fridge, microwave, cooktop and popcorn maker)
• Celebrations of Employee Anniversaries with LineSync Architecture
• Active Search for Diversity among Team Members (including folks facing barriers to employment)

These HR Practices, and our consistent monitoring of them, keep the LineSync Architecture Team thinking about what each of us can do to create a better workplace environment, a better firm as a whole, and how the firm can contribute to a better world.

The Interview:             

• The Livable Jobs Toolkit is available through Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (  This amazing workbook guides a business to which benefits are most realistic for your particular company using worksheets and data.  The three sections offer a guide to benefits that are:
1. Creative with little or no cost;
2. Cost more, offer more;
3. More cost and substantial return.

• has useful resource suggestions ( as well as the B impact assessment tool to assess your company’s impact on each of its stakeholders and improve your social and environmental performance using the Tools and Best Practices embedded in the Survey.
Results from the assessment are displayed in easy to read B Reports with specific scores for environment, community, employees, etc.  These results are transparent to the public for all Certified B Corporations.

My newest Business Venture:  ReWiring Success: Socially Responsible Strategies that Work.  (  This is a new business venture for me and my colleague, Ellen Meyer Shorb.   Our evolving consulting practice does, and our eventual book will, assist companies with strategies for becoming more Socially Responsible.  For now, the blog holds a collection of essays based on interviews of successful Socially Responsible business people.

Julie Lineberger
8 February 2012

Irene’s Eye – in remembrance of 28 August 2011

January 5, 2012

Irene set her sights on our small Vermont village of Wilmington, quite an unexpected course.  Her eye, however, allowed some things to be seen more clearly, and other issues to be blurred.  For our family, as well as our community, it was a multilevel watershed.  It brought to focus who we are and how, beneath daily trappings, we work together from the same foundation.

It rained all night the 27th.  Our friend MaryAnn called early Sunday morning to see if we were still up for brunch.  Intrepid as always, my husband, younger daughter and I set out for Chimney Hill around 9:00am.  Passing Manyu’s Boutique where Jadria worked when not at Bates College, we called Manyu to say we would come help move everything out of the basement after brunch . . . she should meet us there at 11:00 as there was sure to be flooding.

In just one hour of a most delicious brunch, the Deerfield River rose 7 feet.  By 10:15 water was flowing into the boutique’s main floor office window above the river, as well as through the picture windows on Main Street.  We could not get home; all seven routes leading there were either dangerously flooded or completely washed out.

Grateful the three of us were together on the same side of the river, Joseph, Jade and I spent the day and evening as refugees in the home of dear friends.  We walked down to the flooding in absolute shock over the destruction of Dot’s where we ate breakfast the week before, and the complete absence of the Ann Coleman Gallery.  Our architectural firm designed the interior renovations the contractor nearly completed the day before.  The building, super-insulated to it’s 6” concrete foundation, floated above the turbulence of the Main Street river that looked like a rough part of the Colorado and ended up in the lake.  In a need to connect, Jade called her sister in Oregon.

One structure brought a wan smile to our faces.  Jade whispered to Jaslyn, the River Bank Park arbor was standing.  One section of the railing was gone, the trees were uprooted, but the arbor was undamaged, laying to rest any questions of its structural integrity which had surfaced during construction.  Moreover, its weight saved the antique retaining wall upon which it was built, containing the river in that particular section.

Able to make it home 12 hours later, we slept, kind of.  By 5:00am Joseph was offering his services to the National Guard, structurally inspecting the historic village buildings to determine if owners could safely enter their buildings.  By noon Jaslyn, physically three thousand miles away in Portland, yet psychically with us all in Wilmington, started the Southern Vermont Deerfield Valley Relief Support Network on Facebook that garnered 500 members that first day, eventually growing to 1400 members supporting each other with information.

Our community gathered in the center of town that gorgeous Monday, staring at each other and our village in disbelief.  Although one could depict the destruction through words and videos, the palpable energy of utter devastation was indescribable.

Yarn from HandKnits was strewn about town, reminding us of our interconnectedness, linked together in a web of life. The feeling was strong that the negative bickering our town had been experiencing would fall away as we worked together to rebuild our beautiful town. The yarn was a symbol, a reminder of this important reality:  we are all connected to each other in a multitude of ways.

After a day of shock on Monday, the community flew into action Tuesday.  Jade and I decided we could start cleaning up the River Bank Park, have something in the center of town to signify our community was not completely broken.  Assisted by friends, family and Wilmington’s Beautification Committee, the trees were righted, bricks stored, stones put back in place.  Jadria then moved on to orchestrate the transfer of Manyu’s mud filled Boutique contents to our home.  That afternoon a crew of 5 started the rinsing and washing which lasted a full week.

Ten hour work days for the next ten days:  cleaning, sorting, assisting others.  Joseph began his report on the state of the historic district’s 59 buildings.  I was asked to give FEMA representatives a tour of the area.  Jade divided her time between “Manyu’s North” at our home, and getting ready to go back to school.  Jaslyn and I drew up basic guidelines establishing a fund to assist our community’s most vulnerable members and others; the Deerfield River Valley Human Web was named in honor of that yarn.

That first week truly was “Where Amazing Happens” as noted on signs, T-shirts and sweatshirts that popped up around our village.  People who did not talk to each other the previous month were not only working together, but assisting each other.  Jade and a friend assisted with the cleaning of Beanhead’s, a place where those who disapproved of the River Bank Park arbor design often gathered.  Our community was strengthened.  There was a feeling of euphoria coming though the destruction.  We truly felt all connected, not only metaphorically through the yarn.

Based on Jaslyn’s initial directions, I finalized the creation of the Deerfield River Valley Human Web with the cooperation of Merchant’s Bank.  Twice Blessed, a community organization who has assisted people in need for years, graciously allowed the Human Web to come under their 501c3 umbrella.  Megan Russell, Andy Childs and Jennifer Betit-Engel joined us to create a committee for grant making decisions.  Within a week donations were being deposited; within 10 days we were granting funds to individuals and families to keep them in town.

It felt great to be able to assist, especially those who had assisted us in the past.  It felt great to forge connections along different lines.  Everyone, it seemed, found their own helping niche:  ripping out sheetrock, delivering goodies to volunteers, driving garbage bags to the transfer station, the list was exhaustive.  Wilmington really was where AMAZING happens.

Soon, however, exhaustion also figured into the equation.  The unfettered giving to others, that heady sense of community, subsided a bit.  Squabbles surfaced.

Anger ripped through Wilmington regarding clean up contractors from out of town swooping in and being hired in irregular circumstances, over skilled locals.   Once again, misinformation started to seep through the valley.  Historic artifacts were trashed.  Someone tied a strap to an upright of the River Bank Park arbor, the other end to a vehicle, and tried to pull it down.  As if there was not enough destruction in the center of town. . .

Four months out now, we are rebalancing, businesses are opening.  We, our community, are pulling it together a bit more quickly than anticipated.  The world at large is astounded at our resilience.  We are a stronger community for coming together, rebuilding a new normal.  That experience of being connected has remained.

The Human Web received over $200,000.  Many donations came with their own stories, such as the siblings on Higley Hill who was collecting money for a family trip to Disney but sent it, instead, to their neighbors via the Human Web.  Youth from up and down the east coast sent in profits and photos of their lemonade stands.

Second Home Owners showed their dedication for the area both in terms of clean up efforts and their bank accounts with contributions to the various funds for local infrastructure and businesses. Significantly, second homeowners provided over 2/3 of the Human Web’s funds. Second homeowners literally pulled money out of their pockets to keep our locals in their homes.  Local businesses, including Mount Snow, GS Precision, Merchant’s Bank and Southwestern Vermont Medical Center all made significant contributions as well.

Over 100 households received Human Web grants.  They represented a cross section of our community.  A few were used to asking for assistance, but they were the minority.  The majority of grantees had never previously asked for, nor accepted, help; true Vermonters who were used to sorting things out on their own.  If privacy were not an issue, each grantee would rest assured s/he was among Deerfield Valley’s most independent, most proud, most stubborn.

The goal of the Human Web was to keep our community together, recognizing that each one of us has a contribution.  Jaslyn penned a note to accompany the grant checks:

You are receiving this assistance because you are a valuable member of our community.  We want to support your ability to stay in town and continue being a part of making the Deerfield River Valley a wonderful place to live.

These funds are made up of donations from your neighbors who weren’t affected as badly, from second home owners who feel this Valley is their home, and from people who have visited and stayed at our inns on a semi-regular basis watching the area grow and change.  Donations are from people who were born here and now live across the world as well as from people who have never been here, but know how devastatingly difficult it is to lose as much as our valley did.

This is not a loan; it is a gift, and an affirmation of the existence of the magic of love.  Thank you for being here.  We value your place here and the role you fill in this community.  We are all connected.

Here’s to what’s to come!

The gratitude of individuals and the community in general inspired us to raise more funds.  Early December, I wrote a Grant garnering another $5,000 from the Vermont Community Foundation and continued other fund raising efforts.

The Human Web closed down the last day of 2011.  The funds raised served to accomplish what we set out to do, keep our community together, as noted in this letter:

 I would like to thank everyone involved with the Deerfield River Valley Human Web for your assistance during the extremely difficult period following the flooding brought on by Hurricane Irene.  Your help made it possible for me to remain not only in Wilmington, but at the same address I have occupied for the last five years.  This was very important to me because though born and raised in Georgia, I very much love my adopted home and the people of Wilmington, VT, and would not want to live anywhere else.  Your organization and the people of Wilmington have made this possible for me, and I would like to again express my sincerest appreciation for not only all you’ve done for me, but what you’ve done for Wilmington and the entire Deerfield River Valley.     Again, thank you very much,

Recipients repeatedly acknowledged how Human Web grants allowed them to stay in their homes, keep their vehicles, and otherwise tide them over until businesses rebuilt or the snow brought in winter work.

It truly was everyone working together.  The major landlords in town all agreed to accept 80% of rent while the Human Web was paying.  This was over and above their other contributions to our community in dollars and deed after the floods.

In the end, Irene was a lesson for us all, a reminder of the connections we share as members of humanity.  It is important, if not vital, for us to keep that oneness in mind.

Irene let individuals realize that we are a community as a whole.  She blurred the pettiness that kept differences in the forefront.  She clarified the similarities that strengthen us.

Many of us are convinced we will meet the challenge Irene provided and move forward to economic stability in a renewed sense as demonstrated by numerous initiatives folks are working on to ensure this happens.

Irene brought into focus who we are as a family as well as who we are as a community.  Underneath our differences there is love, and respect for how we each contribute differently to our community, working together from the foundation that we are all in this together.

January 2012

H.202 Signing

June 15, 2011


Governor Shumlin signing VT H.202 into Law

26 May 2011 – Comments by Julie Lineberger

Vermont, once again, is leading the nation with its tradition of independent thinking.  We have done this many times including being the first state in the nation to ban slavery, to incorporate universal education, to enact Civil Unions, to make marriage equality law without a judicial order. We are also one of the first states in the nation to allow businesses to incorporate with a charter of social responsibility as a For Benefit Corporation. And now this!

Truly, this is more than just a health care law; it is economic development for the state of Vermont.  With an equal playing field, Vermont businesses can compete in the Global Marketplace.  When our businesses no longer spend 15% – 30% of payroll on health insurance, they can invest in more Vermont employees and higher wages.

Vermont also leads the nation with a very special business organization that believes our success is measured not only in dollars, but also in how we treat our employees, how we interact with our communities and how lightly we walk on this earth.  With over 1200 business members, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility represents approximately 15% of Vermont’s workforce.  We are the largest, most active Businesses for Social Responsibility in the United States, leading the way for others.  As VBSR Board Chair, I am honored to be speaking here today.

For 20 years VBSR has worked to decouple health insurance from paychecks. Who decided that only those people working for companies that can afford health insurance are worthy of health care?

This law about to be signed is the culmination of many peoples efforts.  It is an example of how governmental bodies, non-profit organizations and, leading the pack, business owners can work together to affect positive outcomes.  Our nimble State of Vermont takes action where other States waffle.

Thank you, Governor Shumlin for your vision, foresight and commitment.  Thank you Dr. Deb Richter for your tireless effort and coming to Vermont where one person can make a difference. Thank you to all House Committee members who worked for balance and to bring this to the floor under the exceptional leadership of Mark Larson.  Thank you Senator Claire Ayer of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee for leadership in bringing this to the floor for a vote. Thank you House Representatives and your Speaker, Shap Smith for starting the ball rolling.  Thank you State Senators and President Pro Tem John Campbell for guidance through the Senate.

This business community applauds you.  The nation is watching you!  With this law, you sure have your work cut out for you, and those here are willing to roll up our sleeves and help!