General Comments

Even in this less-than-stellar economy since last October,  Northeast Delta Dental has not seen employer groups dropping dental coverage,  I think in recognition of the importance of oral health and because the dental benefit is relatively inexpensive (roughly 10% of the group medical premium).  We are thankful.   I’m curious, for anyone who is reading my blog, on your views on three things:   1) When do you think the economy will recover (some of our economists say 3rd quarter this year, others 4th quarter); 2) Do you think there will be a full recovery, including a more reasonable unemployment rate?; and 3) what is your view of health care reform and the debates going on in Washington?

Thank you.    Tom Raffio President & CEO of Northeast Delta Dental

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8 Responses to General Comments

  1. Cathy says:

    I don’t know if I believe the Economists… I’m not planning on buying a car or any other big purchases this year.
    I guess I never looked at the economic environment as an analyst before… hard to say when we’ll see a full recovery.
    People continue to lose jobs and there are many empty houses in my neighborhood. It’s depressing to look at and listen to even if it is a recession.

    • tomraffio says:

      Thanks Cathy.

      Unemployment does indeed remain a serious problem, with no end in sight.

      Thanks for your feedback.


      Tom R

  2. > 1) When do you think the economy will recover
    > 2) Do you think there will be a full recovery,
    > including a more reasonable unemployment rate?

    I recognize that our economic woes are directly impacting real people and I sympathize, but I don’t think we’re ready for a full recovery. Large corporations are still bogged down with executive deadwood who, lacking vision, dedication, and a sense of responsibility to their customers and employees, rely instead on making money through shareholders and lobbyists. I don’t believe that a recovery will have substance until these folks pass through and out of the system. Propping up these companies with government money will likely only prolong the agony or make it worse.

    > 3) what is your view of health care reform and the debates going on in Washington?

    Hurrah for the debate! Our healthcare system is undoubtedly broken: employer-based healthcare is an incredible burden for a small company trying to get started, but the alternative is employees without healthcare at all or only hiring folks with covered spouses. And it’s not like what we’re trying to buy is particularly good. According to the Commonwealth Fund*, “Compared with five other nations—Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom—the U.S. health care system ranks last or next-to-last on five dimensions of a high performance health system: quality, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives.”

    I admit I’m a bit bitter. I recently lost a friend and neighbor to what can only be described as a lack of ownership of the process of keeping him alive.He was basically handed like a hot potato from person to person until he died. Worse, many people I talk with have had a similar experience.

    Sure, let them discuss reform. Maybe a shred of something will happen.


  3. tomraffio says:

    Hi Richard,

    I do agree that we need a major overhaul/paradigm shift to truly effect a complete economic recovery; band aid approaches probably won’t fix any structural weaknesses/deficiencies in the U.S. economic system.

    I agree that a healthy debate (no pun intended) on healh care reform (HCR) is a good thing, and part of a process to lead to a long term solution to price, access, quality issues. There is a school of thought that you can only have 2 out of 3 of these — in other words, if you have the best quality and total access, will price go out of sight (even higher than now)? If you have a more reasonable price, would quality suffer?

    Just musing here.

    Thanks Richard for staying in touch.

    Tom Raffio, CEO/NEDD

    • > There is a school of thought that you can only have 2 out of 3
      > of these (price, access, quality)

      According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD Health Data 2009) the U.S. spent 15.8% of it’s GDP on healthcare in 2006–far the largest percentage of any 1st world country (and at 78.1 years we have the lowest average life expectancy). By comparison, France–which spent only 11%–consistently rates at the top for both access (universal) and quality (excellent).

      While access and quality cost money, money is obviously *not* an indicator of access and quality.


      • Tom Raffio says:

        Hi Rich,

        I agree, money does not in itself solve the healthcare dilemma in the United States. We need to create an overall wellness culture, like we have established at Northeast Delta Dental for our employees, and like the dental/oral health model, where we encourage preventitive visits and going to the dentist at least twice per year, which in the long run eliminates more costly procedures. We need to do that on the medical side of things. As always Rich, thank you for your thoughtful feedback.


        Tom Raffo, CEO/Northeast Delta Dental

  4. Chris says:

    I think a good indicator of how our economy is doing will come in the 4th quarter of this year. Though I do remember analysts saying that last year people spent more than they thought they would on Black Friday, they neglected to point out the DEEP discounts that people took advantage of. I personally feel the 4th quarter is when we’ll start to see the economy turn around.

    I don’t believe there will be a full recovery, mainly because of the jobs issue. I view the economy on it’s grander scale. A full recovery to me does include a healthier job market. Since it is well known that thought the market may see an uptick, jobs will continue to be lost. Unfortunately the Jobs Market did not get the same kind of boost that the regular market did with the ARRA monies.

    I’m curious to see what will come of all this reforming healthcare. Is the system broken? To an extent, but it does still work. I have heard the good and the bad of this kind of reform. It’s interesting really. If we look at this from a jobs stand point, how can centralizing healthcare be good for an already hurting jobs market? Of course that’s one of many ways to look at it. I also worry about the quality of care that our elderly will recieve. Some say it will go up, others say it will decline.

    I guess I’m more nervous at how fast the President wants to move this through congress. I’d rather they took their time on this one.

  5. Tom Raffio says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for your insightful and thoughtful comments. I agree that until the job situation is back to minimal unemployment, we really don’t have a full recovery. I also agree, that at many levels, the U.S. healthcare system is working — rarely is someone ever turned away from a hospital, and we still have some of the greatest hospitals and physicians in the world, right here in the U.S. We also know that many of the 47 million (or whatever number folks are using these days) uninsured do that by choice, and, in fact, can afford the medical premium or opt out of their employer coverage. Great linkage on the jobs and centralizing healthcare — how ironic if a more “efficient” healthcare system resulted in more job loss. As for the pace of Healthcare Reform Legislation, I agree that Washington was going too fast and not thoughtfully enough, though it now appears that any serious legislative initiative will be delayed to the Fall.

    Thank you Chris for your valuable contribution.


    Tom Raffio
    CEO/Northeast Delta Dental

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