Posted tagged ‘Julie Lineberger’

2 Spots More and we are READY TO Move to More Meaningful Work!

April 22, 2015
If you want to connect and learn from others who have made the shift to More Meaningful Work, this is your opportunity!

We’ll provide the tools, discuss the issues, and identify resources and next steps that you need to shift toward more meaningful work. Plus, you’ll leave with a community of peers that you can rely on for on-going advice, support and accountability. (Check out the previous post for more details.)

Our registration deadline of May 1st is approaching fast, and spots are filling up quickly. Empower yourself to make the changes you’ve been contemplating by investing one weekend towards this important topic and register now.

Still have questions? Set up a call with us to discuss how this program can serve your current needs.

See you in Vermont,
Beverly & Julie

Moving to More Meaningful Work • 12 – 14 June 2015 at The Wilmington Inn and Tavern in Wilmington Vermont

March 14, 2015

Are you interested in finding work where your values match your own? Or creating your own purpose-driven business? Are you wanting a workplace with a mission that is worth your precious life energy? Given the environmental and social changes the world is experiencing, do you want to better align your professional work to help address the world’s needs?

With encouragement from many, Beverly Winterscheid of the Center for Nature and Leadership (http://natureleadership.org/) and I created a workshop for such individuals, empowering folks who want to make a change in their lives toward more meaningful work.

This workshop will assist those who desire a next step that contributes to the betterment of the world. We will explore more meaningful, purpose-driven career options that lift one up rather than exhaust. We will work on tools to shift into a career meeting your desire to make a positive difference, and/or find more ways to get your current meaningful work into other systems.

This workshop will provide:

Perspective – discussion defining meaningful work on both macro and micro levels; how various jobs are meaningful to yourself, others, the world at large

Path – a path to determine and identify the right opportunity for yourself

Process – to re-explore talents/skills and align them with purpose driven organizations

Partnership – advice, support, membership in a community of like-minded individuals

Join us in changing the world one person at a time! http://natureleadership.org/meaningful-work/

Beverly and Julie

Please Take the More Meaningful Work Survey!

September 26, 2014

 

Dear Friend and Colleague,

Help us change the world one person at a time!

People are finding themselves working for an organization whose values don’t match their own, or for a mission that they don’t believe is worth their precious life energy. Given the environmental and social changes the world is experiencing, other folks have said that they’d like to better align their professional work to help address the world’s needs. These shifts can best be described as a desire to more towards more meaningful, impactful work in the world. Have you experienced any of these shifts? If so, in what ways?

With encouragement from many, Beverly Winterscheid of the Center for Nature and Leadership (http://natureleadership.org/) and I are creating a seminar for individuals, empowering folks who want to make a change in their lives toward more meaningful work. Would you do us a favor and trial this survey for us by Monday 9.29.14? It will take you no more than 5 minutes or so.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3G3SLLR

We’d appreciate any feedback that you have, and will use it to make this program a unique, worthwhile and engaging investment of time.

Also, please feel free to pass the survey on to anyone else you think might be interested in shifting to more meaningful work in the world.

Thank you,

Julie

 

Article Published in CSR Wire!!!

March 1, 2014

From Ordinary to Extraordinary: 5 Ways to Become a Socially Responsible Business Mid-Stream

Are strategies to embed CSR into existing companies the same as traditional change management?

Julie_lineberger-and-ellen_meyer_shorb
By Julie Lineberger and Ellen Meyer Shorb
 
Do you have a successful business, make good money, but feel unsatisfied? Perhaps there is a quiet voice gnawing at you, asking, “Is this all there is?”Cliff Cort of Triumph Modular decided to stoke those embers and rewired his business to create significant positive change not only in his business, but the entire industry. Cort wanted to build a legacy, he wanted to do something creative, and he wanted to make buildings he was proud of.While running a successful modular construction company, he latched onto the idea of offering Green Modulars (energy efficient classroom buildings built with non-toxic, renewable materials). Fast-forward 10 years and Cort is today at the forefront of green modular buildings, making an impact globally. Further, he transformed an entire industry from using formaldehyde boxes to non-toxic, efficient designs!

But what if you are hauling trash? Making cheese and milk products in Vermont or managing properties in Boston?

building-blocks-green-graph

Can you sell Apple products, vitamins or trucking services and make a difference in the world? Can an existing company shift gears to become socially responsible [SR] and green?

Can Ordinary Businesses Become Socially Responsible?

We’ve spent the last three years interviewing 50 companies with ordinary products and services that decided to make the change to be driven by SR principles. These are not companies that were created to sell a green product, nor to serve their local community or produce their product with minimal environmental impact. And yet, they joined a legend of existing companies that are changing how they do business, finding that doing so breathes new life, competitiveness and efficiencies into production and market differentiation.

So how do you change an existing business to make it socially responsible? We found five common and effective steps:

1. Stoke the Fire in Your Belly

“Believe in what you’re doing, stick to it, and hang in there.” This is not a simple set of aphorisms. The first step to rapidly make your ordinary business extraordinary is to WANT IT, to want to make a business that is wiser, responsive and profitable. This means listening to yourself, tapping into your own hunger and fueling the fire in your belly.

Jan Blomstrann started at NRG Systems, a wind energy measurement device company, as a bookkeeper. Inspired by the results of instituting socially responsible human resources and supply chain policies, Blomstrann transformed the company – of which she is now CEO – by adopting socially responsible principles across the board.

When she began the process, her main priority was to create a business organization by instituting management systems that professionally ran the company: accounting, hiring the right people, figuring out how to offer health insurance, etc. The policies that made the most sense to her were socially responsible.

“It was just the right thing to do, especially in terms of employee retention. In the late 1990s, young people started sending in resumes. They said: ‘I don’t care what it is, is there a job for me?’” Startled that the requests were predicated not only on the growing wind industry but by NRG’s socially responsible policies, she noted, “It was very infectious for the employees to see the success of the company. We were contributing to a new way of being and doing business.”

2) Be a Champion or Hire One

In an existing company, deep changes need a champion to educate and get buy-in from a variety of stakeholders.

When Ford Reiche owned Safe Handling in Lewiston, Maine, he spent two decades following the climate change debate, but made no changes in his trucking and transportation company until he met Andy Meyer. Meyer was switching careers at the time and wanted to make a difference in the environment; Ford saw his hunger and aptitude and hired him as his first “Chief Sustainability Officer.”

sustainability-recycle-strong-man

Meyer dug in, spent a lot of time in the warehouses and docking garages and, with Ford’s support, initiated a sweep of initiatives that engaged employees in thinking about how to save energy, thus saving the company money. Meyer also started a program of noting good ideas and accomplishments on small steps with dollar bills at staff meetings. It was at one such meeting that an employee presented his research on a sign that requested people not to turn off a light switch. As it turned out, the light had been left on for three years and no one knew why!

3) Build Unlikely Allies

Jed Davis had been at Cabot Creamery for 13 years when he became obsessed with the idea of making the dairy cooperative more environmentally sustainable. It took him three years to convince the Cabot management. Now Director of Sustainability, Davis worked across the Creamery to reduce solid waste.

When Cabot controller Ed Townley first heard of Davis’ socially responsible goals, he rolled his eyes. Then he ran the numbers. He quickly joined forces with Davis and Operations SVP Ed Pcolar who actually went with the trash hauler to the dump to count trash. After that episode, Pcolar made it mandatory for all departments to weigh their solid waste and figure out how to recycle just about everything. Today, the company is considered a leader in the environmental space.

4) Implement Low Hanging Fruit First

New Chapter Sustainability Manager Sara Newmark drew up a business plan to bring the Brattleboro, Vt., company in line with its reputation as a national leader in sustainability based on the quality and sustainability of its procurement practices. Although she had already created a far-reaching business plan for the initiative, she saw a need to implement a few more visible changes to inspire others to follow. She initiated New Chapter’s sustainable policies with simple recycling and in purchasing recycled materials.

Along with owner Barbi Schulick, Newmark started by asking all the department heads to evaluate where they could make improvements. An early and simple change was to check who was using recycled paper for all their printing. Turned out, there was no consistency in who the departments were sourcing their paper from. While recycled paper was more expensive, by switching organization-wide, their cost fell significantly.

Next, each department created a matrix of goals and metrics including fair trade sourcing, carbon footprint, solid waste and energy use. The company then celebrated the department that recycled the most and who saved the most.

Little by little, they wove sustainability into the fabric of their operational culture. They didn’t see changes right away, nor did everyone get immediate satisfaction, but the values and principles slowly started to become part of the way New Chapter does business. Now sustainability is who New Chapter is.

5) Evaluate ROI from Multiple Angles and Share

Noting the impending impact depleting resources could have on its industry; Casella Waste Systems went from “hauling trash” to “managing resources.” In the mid-2000s, according to Vice President Joe Fusco, the company switched from hauling a ton of byproducts to the landfill to hauling an increasing amount of “waste” to be recycled, re-used and sold in the last decade.

Once Casella entered the recycling business, it began to track its repurposed resources, celebrating each metric by measuring and reporting the difference they were making environmentally, in their community, among their employees and to its financial bottom line.

Social Responsibility: Easier than Simple Change Management?

When interviewing these companies, we continually asked ourselves whether their transformations fell under traditional change management. Were the strategies these companies were taking the same if they were switching a product line, expanding overseas or consolidating three factories?

Turns out, there were some critical differences.

Embedding social responsibility into an organization is a challenging transformation for a company because the field is still pretty nascent. In some cases, measurement tools have to be created industry by industry. For example, Cabot Creamery decided to join hands with other dairy companies to design industry metrics and set tracking, evaluation and reporting mechanisms in place so the entire industry could move toward greener practices.

hands-in-a-circle-group

Besides, measuring financial success is difficult. And the connection between social responsibility and employee retention is not always a clean one nor is it always possible to show direct causation. Payback terms may be longer than traditionally calculated and these metrics are not traditionally an existing part of reporting systems for investors, shareholders and owners.

On the other hand, markets and consumers are increasingly hungry for products and services that are made and distributed by companies with an explicit social bend. We now have an entire new field of language for social responsibility – the “multiple bottom line” (planet, people, profits), “green,” “sustainable,” etc. Further, the companies we talked to found that social responsibility engaged and retained employees, consumers were more attracted and savings from energy efficiency and recycling boosted the company’s bottom line.

Perhaps most difficult to quantify, but most clear to those engaged in these transformations, is the fact that the employees and owners feel personally revitalized, engaged. This intangible but powerful benefit can greatly propel a substantively significant change in business success.

Time to Embrace Responsibility

Ten years ago, this conversion would have been difficult.

Today, there is momentum, a cultural change in the market, and a hunger among owners and employees to continue doing what they do well while positively influencing the world, the environment and their community. While becoming a socially responsible business can be logistically, culturally and politically challenging, it is, hands-down, the smartest business decision you’ll ever make.

Try it.

About the Authors:

Ellen Meyer Shorb is a principal of Blue Sage Partners, a strategy consulting practice specializing in meeting facilitation.

Julie Lineberger is the co-founder/owner of LineSync Architecture, a green and sustainable firm in southern Vermont, and a Board Member of Green America and Past Chair the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility Board of Directors.

ReWiring Success, like Ellen and Julie, combines the philosophies of global sustainability, nonprofit humanitarian development and for-profit earnings.

Submitted by: Guest Contributors

Posted: Feb 25, 2014 – 09:00 AM EST

Tags: csr, environment, energy efficiency, triumph modular, new chapter, cabot creamery, nrg, safe handling, casella waste, sustainability, recycling, climate change, change management

Vermont Health Connect – be ready for a new way to pay for Health Insurance in 2014!

May 10, 2013

A new post based on my work with both the Medicaid and Exchange Advisory Board and The Green Mountain Care Board Advisory Committee:  Clarifying what’s next in Health Insurance for Vermont Residents.

VHC Logosizedforwebsite
Starting October 2013, all Vermonters who pay for Health Insurance themselves, Vermonters who don’t have Health Insurance, those who have Medicaid, Dr. Dynasaur, Catamount or Vermont Health Access Program (VHAP), and all Vermonters who work for a company that employs less than 50 people, can buy Health Insurance or sign up for Medicaid, etc. from Vermont Health Connect.

On October 1, 2013 the Vermont Health Connect (VHC) website will be ready for you! (If you don’t use the internet, no worries.  A call center and in person Navigators are also being set up.)

The first question VHC will ask, either on the website, or in person:  “Do you have health insurance though an employer?”

If you answer “No”, there is a second question:  “How old are you?”

If you are 65 or older, VHC will say:  “You are covered by Medicare.”  From the website, you will be able to click on a button and go to the Medicare application page.

If you are 64 or younger VHC will ask:  “How many people in your household?”

The website or Navigator will then tell you:  “If your household income is below a (it will spell out the specific amount based on your household size), you may qualify for a tax credit in 2014.”   Those with household incomes up to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level may qualify.

Some samples of who will qualify for the tax credits:  A single person making less than $45,960; a couple making less than $62,040; a family of four making less than $94,200. (These are based on 2013 estimates and may change slightly for 2014.)  How much you make is listed on your taxes as your modified adjusted gross income, this is the figure Vermont will use.

Starting May 15th, you can go to http://www.vermonthealthconnect.gov and see your tax credit/subsidy estimate on the website.  By the end of May Vermont Health Connect will also have a FaceBook page.

On top of the Vermont State tax credits, there will be some federal subsidies for out of pocket expenses for households making less than 250% of the federal poverty level.

Note: Tax Credits will be available for any person buying their own insurance whose household income is below 400% of the federal poverty level – but not for those who get insurance through their work.

By following website prompts, you will be directed to a page where you can compare Health Insurance plans.  After you input your modified adjusted gross income, the website will figure in the tax credits, and let you know your monthly bill for each plan. When you are ready, you can then choose and purchase your own health insurance.

THE PLANS
All plans offer 10 categories of essential health benefits (see next paragraph) and the following applies:  Any person up to age 26 can be on their parents’ plan.  Preventive care does not have any co-pays.  There will be tax credits and out of pocket limits as noted above.

Essential Health Benefits:  Ambulatory patient services, emergency services, prescription drugs, rehab and chronic disease management, hospitalization, maternity & newborn care, mental health & substance abuse, lab work, preventive wellness and pediatric health including dental and vision.

There are four types of Qualified Health Plans (QHP):  Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum.  The higher monthly premium you pay, the more is covered and the less you spend on your own out of pocket costs and co-pays.

On the website you will be able to compare plans side by side and evaluate what is best for you and your family.

Because all plans will have the same benefits, the important choice is how you want to pay for health care. Whether you pay more up-front in premiums and less in out-of-pocket costs, or the reverse, it’s up to you.

For example, if you choose a platinum plan, your monthly premiums will be higher, but what you pay in out of pocket costs will be lower – about ten percent of the actual cost of the visit or procedure. If you choose a bronze plan, you will have lower monthly premiums, but what you pay out of pocket will be higher – about 40 percent of the actual cost of the visit or procedure.

BROKERS & NAVIGATORS
There will be a lot of resources available to assist you with your health insurance purchase either by internet, phone or in person. If you have purchased health insurance through a broker in the past, he or she will still be able to assist you. In addition, “Navigators” will be trained and available to help you figure out which plan is best for you, and to help you enroll. There will also be a Vermont Health Connect call center to help you use the website and understand health insurance options.

ENROLLMENT
You have from 10.1.2013 until  3.31.2014 to enroll in this plan.  If you don’t, there will be a tax penalty!

If you have questions now, please email: vthealthconnect@state.vt.us   You can also sign up for the Vermont Health Connect newsletter at:  http://www.VermontHealthConnect.gov  (Click on:  “Information for You” on the left hand side, then click on “email updates”.)

One Part of Irene’s Economic Aftermath: The Wilmington Fund VT

March 17, 2013

NOTE:  This article was originally published in the Winter 2013 issue of The Cracker Barrel

Irene in Action, photo by Barker Willard

Irene in Action, photo by Barker Willard

Two months ago Hurricane Sandy slammed through the Northeast.  Those of us in the Deerfield Valley had a true understanding of damage that can be left behind.  Our thoughts and prayers were with everyone harmed by the climactic event.

Nearly a year and a half ago (28 August 2011), Tropical Storm Irene ravaged many Vermont towns, including Wilmington.  By January, The Wilmington Fund VT was established and hard at work.

Founding
Tamara and Dan Kilmurray, longtime Wimington second homeowners felt the losses and destruction of Wilmington’s village viscerally.  Throughout the clean up process in which they physically contributed, they discussed what could be done on a long term basis.  Dan communicated with Deborah Emmet Pike, another second home owner who had introduced him to the valley over three decades ago.  Deborah put Dan in touch with local business owner Julie Lineberger as someone who could assist him in gathering a group of people to create a long term difference.

By February 2012 the full Board was established including Dan as President, State House Representative Ann Manwaring as Vice President, financial planner Bruce Mullen as Treasurer and Julie as Secretary of the Board.  Rounding out the group were Tamara Kilmurray, Deborah Emmet Pike, attorney Robert Fisher, business owner John Gannon and innkeeper John Pilcher who, reluctantly, resigned from the Board in November.

Recently the Board created an Advisory Council to assist in with the mission through brainstorming fundraising ideas, acting as ambassadors to The Wilmington Fund VT.  This group includes Mount Snow Partner Dick Deutsch, West Dover second homeowner Bob Kaufman, Halifax second homeowner Walter Jones, local active volunteer Alice Greenspan, and Wilmington second homeowner Sophie Ackert who raised a significant amount of money for The Wilmington Fund VT through her Bat Mitzvah project.

Grant Process
The primary mission of The Wilmington Fund VT is to contribute to the the economic vitality in the area by encouraging established pre-Irene businesses to reopen, help new businesses launch and create jobs in Wilmington’s historic village center.  This includes shrinking the number of empty storefronts in the village.  Steadily, albeit slowly, we are advancing towards these goals.

In order to accomplish the above goals, The Wilmington Fund VT established parameters and protocols for grant applications and approval.  Each project is evaluated on its own particular set of circumstances by our general requirements that include submission of a complete business plan to establish, or reestablish, a business in the Village.  Part of the requirement is that any submission must include a substantial financial investment on the part of the applicant business owner.

Once a letter requesting funds accompanied by a completed business plan is submitted, a small group of our Board vets the project through interview and other due diligence measures.  When approved by the small group, the project is brought to the full Board of Directors for discussion.

So far, the Wilmington Fund VT invested $145,000 in the approval and distribution of  and distribution six grants.  The recipient business owners are on target to invest in excess of $1 million in their respective projects.  This multiplier effect is a key requirement for any grant application and approval of The Wilmington Fund VT.

After, photo by Carolyn Bates

After, photo by Carolyn Bates

Progress
The grants distributed include five businesses and an infrastructural project to support all village businesses.  The businesses that either opened, or are in the process of reopening, are well funded and have solid articulated business plans.  The Wilmington Fund VT is highly confident of their success and believe that a total of 30 local jobs will be created.

North Star Bowl – REOPENED. The center for local activity offering both bowling and informal food is owned by Steve Butler and Bev Lemaire.  Over 75% of this structure was destroyed in the storm.  Although not technically in Wilmington’s Village Center, we felt this business to be a significant contributor to the economic vitality of the area.

• Dot’s Restaurant – REOPENING SOON.  The iconic breakfast to dinner restaurant is owned by Patty and John Reagan.  http://www.rebuilddots.com

Note:  Funding and elbow grease from many individuals and many groups, most notably the Friends of the Valley, is what enabled both North Star and Dot’s to even think of reopening.  The Wilmington Fund VT was but one aspect of the reestablishment of these businesses.

Beyond Imagination – OPENED. A beautifully designed women’s clothing and household furnishings boutique is owned by Melinda and Bill Coombs.  http://www.beyondimagination.com

Chapman’s InTown Antiques – OPENED. Diane and Len Chapman have been running an antique business on their Medburyville property just outside of town for many years.  Along with neighbors JoAnn and David Manning, they decided to open a store in the village.  With assistance from The Wilmington Fund VT, the team of four renovated a storm ravaged building and are offering both antiques and local Vermont crafts.

Restaurant in the historic Parmelee & Howe Building – OPENING SOON. The Wilmington Fund VT purchased and began renovating this anchor building on the corner of Routes 9 & 100.  Mid-way through we were approached by a local individual with a vision and an interest in purchasing the property.  Acknowledging the ample investment and undertaking by the purchaser, as a demonstration of support the accepted negotiated price was less than our investment. The Wilmington Fund VT is pleased to have accomplished its goal with the sale of the Historic Parmelee & Howe building and look forward to its success.

• Village Walkway – PARTIALLY COMPLETED.  Led by the Long Term Recovery Parking and Green space Committee of Carolyn Palmer, Lilias Hart and Sue Spengler, the project links a new parking lot with Main Street with a soon to be lit walkway.

Future Challenges
Because of these early successes, morale in the village is recovering and the ambiance greatly improved.  The robust Village Stroll Committee is working diligently to create various events to entice people downtown.  In addition, the increase in tourist traffic this fall was very encouraging.

However, there remain numerous damaged and empty buildings requiring a great deal of work.  The scope of these future projects is larger than our accomplishments to date, and 80 or so jobs still need to be restored.  The Board is exploring various options, including the establishment of a revolving loan fund, to stimulate economic growth in the village.

The Wilmington Fund VT has been prudent stewards of donated capital.  Close to 100% of fund donations go to economic vitality efforts with a minimal amount used for insurance and accounting fees.  All Board Members work voluntarily, truly a tireless effort by a talented group of individuals.

To continue our work, The Wilmington Fund VT is in a constant mode of fundraising.  We are also establishing two annual fundraisers.  The Summer Event of 2012 was extremely successful.  This included an art show curated by Mary Wright of Gallery Wright, a Pig Roast Dinner at the home of the Kilmurrays, and a Memorial Hall concert produced with great support of Dale Doucette.  Plans for the 13 July 2013 Summer Event are in currently in the works.

The Wilmington Fund VT is also in the midst of working with Mount Snow to create an annual Winter Event.

The long term success of our cause will ultimately be determined by continued strong governance, solid decision making and, of course, successful fundraising.  All are invited to keep on top of our progress through http://www.TheWilmingtonFundVT.org

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