A Savvy Industry

FROM THOSE IN THE GARBAGE INDUSTRY, one would expect leadership on, well, solid waste issues. For a waste firm to take an active role in helping businesses of all kinds better manage their healthcare plans is, to say the least, somewhat less obvious. However, that is just what Kansas City, Mo.-based Deffenbaugh Industries is doing.

Leadership in controlling healthcare costs coming from the family-owned hauler might not seem so surprising if you knew that the firm has managed to hold its employees' premiums steady for the last four years — a feat in any business. Still, Karrie Andes, who has been Deffenbaugh's human resources (HR) director for five years, is concerned about the ever-growing expense and complexity that is involved with providing workers with health insurance.

About a year ago, she decided there was a need for a conference, particularly in the Midwest, that would help businesses learn “the ins and outs and secrets” of managing health plans. So, she went to Ronald D. Deffenbaugh, owner of the firm, and asked for his financial support in putting together such a show. “Whatever you need,” was his response.

The firm's HR department then spent the next several months lining up educational sessions and promoting the show, called the Savvy Self-Funding Healthcare Conference & Expo. The two-day show took place last September in Kansas City. About 150 people from all kinds of businesses attended the sessions, which featured speakers from both the public and the private sectors, and roughly 50 insurance carriers and brokers exhibited at the conference.

This year, the show is scheduled for August 15-16 in Kansas City. (For more information on the show, visit www.savvyemployerconference.com.)

Even though Deffenbaugh Industries pays for the costs of the show (which it recouped last year through registration fees), the firm's name is not attached to the show so that potential attendees don't think the conference is geared only towards waste firms, according to Andes.

Andes says that much of the inspiration for the show came from the firm's workers. “We have lots of good, hardworking people here who perform such a critical role in society,” she says. “It's my duty to protect them and manage their healthcare so that I don't have to ask them to pay higher premiums or deductibles.”

Perhaps leading the business community in its fight to protect its workers from higher healthcare insurance is a natural extension of what the waste industry does in the first place, which is handling solid waste so that its customers are shielded from disease — healthcare protection by another name.

The author is the editor of Waste Age