Health Care Bill: Vault's experts discuss its career and education impact
Phil Stott, Producer, web content
Aman Singh, CSR Editor
Carolyn Wise, Senior Education Editor
Naomi Newman, Global Consulting Editor
Margaret Davidson, Manager of Editorial Research
Derek Loosvelt, Global Finance Editor
Linda Petock, Senior Producer, web content
Linda: Welcome to Vault's first "In the News" roundtable discussion. I thought we'd start this series off with what everyone's been talking about all week--the historic health care bill.
Phil: I think one of the biggest changes afoot in the bill is the end of people feeling like they’re tied to their jobs because of healthcare. Having grown up in a country with socialized healthcare, I’ve seen first-hand both sides of the coin, and it’s always struck me as somewhat strange that the quality of one’s healthcare should depend on the lottery of where you manage to land a job.
Of course, that isn’t going to end completely—employers will still be able to compete on healthcare plans—but my feeling is that having a “safety net”, as the President put it, will encourage more mobility in the job market. That, to my mind, means we’re going to see employers having to work harder to maintain loyalty among employees. It also means we’re likely to see more people taking chances in their careers, and a potential rise in entrepreneurial activity. Whether it also means—as I’ve seen some commentary in the blogosphere suggest—that some will just drop out of working altogether is another question.
Aman: The health care bill is meant to make it easier for everyone to have coverage, regardless of choice of job/industry. For those few who have the entrepreneurial streak but are buried under loan debt or simply cannot risk it because of family responsibilities or other reasons, this is another win for their freedom of choice. In terms of corporate social responsibility, a once-risky career choice will become more tempting and dare I say, common. This bill means people who want to make a difference and cannot with their current employers can now take the risk of actually thinking outside the box (or the system, in this case) without giving up basic rights like medical coverage.
The field of CSR as a career choice is so nascent right now that this bill serves as more encouragement. From my conversations with students and professionals, there are many individuals out there you would like to graduate with an MBA in Sustainable Business and professionals who are getting certified and trained for CSR work, but are not able to step out of the system and practice. This bill, for them, will make the road ahead easier, whether that means self-employment or working with small businesses to lead change in the marketplace. One step and one company at a time.
Carolyn: Speaking of students, the new health care reform bill is good news for current college students too. Most colleges offer health care plans for current students while they're on campus, which include treatment in the campus infirmary if you've caught pink eye or strep throat, as well as physical health and well-being doctors and counselors. But once they graduate (and, sometimes, during the summer), many young adults find themselves uninsured due to unemployment or under-employment. Many internship programs, for example, do not offer health benefits under the employer's plan; and entry-level salaries are sometimes so low that opting into an employer's health care plan means significantly lowering one's quality of life. I myself was an intern after graduation and found myself (briefly) uninsured.
Everyone talks about how the new health care reform bill will give U.S. citizens the “flexibility of choice,” and for students and recent grads that couldn’t be more true. Under the new health care reform bill, recent graduates will be eligible to remain a "dependent" under their parents' insurance plan until they're 26. This extended coverage will take some of the stress off of finding one’s bearing in the professional sphere, and allow recent grads to take jobs that offer more long-term benefits (e.g., job opportunities, networking, etc.), rather than ones that pay best and offer the most comprehensive benefits plan but may not be on the desired career path.
This increased job flexibility at graduation will also enable students to consider more diverse options when they leave campus—travelling, perhaps, or simply taking time for themselves to help transition from student to professional. Postgraduate internships will also certainly continue their upward trajectory. Last year, 55 percent of career centers at colleges and universities across the country told Vault that they've seen an increase in the number of seniors choosing internships over full-time employment after graduation. With the safety net of continued health care coverage, these grads will be able to pursue the internships and opportunities best suited to launch their careers.
Naomi: In the short term, I think the primary impact of the health care bill will be on HR consulting firms, who will be busy at work helping their clients understand the full implications of the new legislation on their health benefits packages. They will need to reconsider their offerings and make sure they are complying with all new requirements. And since the plan is so far-reaching, this will keep HR consultants busy for at least the next few years.
Linda: Do you think then that the field of HR consulting will grow? Does that mean more hirings in the consulting field overall?
Margaret: I don’t know about HR consulting, but it could potentially lead to an increase in hiring at firms that have a large public sector presence – or at least a shift in terms of where the opportunities can be found. Any time legislation dictates an expansion of some sector of the government, government consulting firms adjust their business development strategies to go where the money is. Similar to the way these companies focused on pitching to defense agencies when we got involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, I suspect that they will target agencies that are impacted by this bill. Thus, I predict that there will be a greater number of opportunities to consult civil agencies.
Naomi: Also look for health care and strategy consulting firms to get in on the action. They will look at all angles of the issue, from helping insurers and pharmaceutical companies to cut costs, to finding better ways of providing care to a much larger market, and improving long- and short-term outcomes. As more of the risk now shifts to consumers, finding innovative solutions for health care plan delivery and incentives will be of critical importance, especially as large employers do their utmost to reign in costs. More technically, pharmaceutical companies are now undertaking comparative effectiveness research to develop evidence of their products compared to others. Health care consultants are likely to weigh in on this process, as well.
Most see such possible solutions as taking three or four years to be conceived and put into effect, which means that the job market for consultants is sure to grow over the next few years. And due to stagnation in the market over 2008-2009, consulting firms are now really starting to bolster their numbers.
Derek: I think the largest effect on the financial industry, from a careers perspective, will be an indirect one. With most of the difficult work involved in reforming the U.S. health care system behind them, Democrats can now focus on financial regulatory reform, which slid to the back burner but is now shaping up to be the major rallying point come mid-term elections this fall. Coincidentally, Election Day occurs during the height of top banking employers’ recruiting season. This means that some of these employers (those who’ve been and will continue to receive boatloads of hate mail and bad press) will likely be spending serious amounts of time, energy and money attempting to dispel rumors and artificially sweeten the not-so-sweet past when they descend upon undergraduate and MBA institutions after Labor Day.
And while banks' PR outfits and insiders work overtime, would-be finance employees from some of the top schools across the country (aka candidates for some of the highest-paying entry-level jobs in the land) will be faced with some difficult questions, including this one: Should I go into banking at all? With public perception of the banking industry at a low, if not all-time low, and the heat about to be turned up on banks for their recent indiscretions, it's likely that this year choices between, say, Goldman and McKinsey, Morgan Stanley and BCG, and J.P. Morgan and Bain might be easier and come out differently than they had been in the past.
Linda: Thanks everyone! As Derek mentioned, the financial regulatory reform is coming up and we'll cover that in a future "In the News" discussion. Please feel free to continue the debate and leave your comments below.
__________________ Previous coverage: Four Hiring Boosts from the Health Care Bill