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Networking in High Heels

“Success is not a matter of what you know, but who you know.”

At Networking in High Heels (NiHH), we disagree. We know that success is both a matter of what you know and who you know!

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Nine Ways to Say Thank You to Clients in Social Media

December 27, 2013

THANK YOU on speech bubble price labelsA wise person one said that when you talk well of other people – they think that you are a brilliant conversationalist.  There is more truth to that than just the mere irony of saying something pleasing about someone else elevating you in the minds of your listeners.   In social media, we forget that speaking well of others make us both look good.

This may well be the most overlooked piece of business advice on the planet:  Social space is free – give your best clients advertising to build appreciation, loyalty, and brand recognition.

Many times, companies lack creativity when it comes to trying to say thank you to the customers

  1. Online Reviews – Statistics show that people are 23% more inclined to do business with companies that have positive reviews.  Translation?  Online reviews on sites like Yelp are gold for companies trying to get a leg up on the competition.  Leaving a positive review is a two-fold link because it allows people who find their services to read your reviews and find out more about your company.
  2. Shout Out on #Twitter – A good Twitter following can be an asset to any company that wants to broadcast news and PR about their company.  Twitter can also be an excellent platform to share news and press about clients with #hashtags, photos, and links.
  3. Post on Facebook –Posting a positive comment about a client on your Facebook or theirs with good #hashtags, links, and images shares your free social space.  Nothing draws good feelings like speaking well of their work or company.
  4. Share a Resource, Discount Coupon, or Expertise – Everyone likes a good discount or promotion.  If you have an excellent resource or expert on a topic that helps build business, then sharing it with good clients shows that you are on their side.  Some clients have a customer appreciation meeting and hire a speaker to share information on a business topic.  This shows that you are interested in the growth of their business.
  5. Feature on Blog – The nice thing about a blog is that you get lots of space to really do a good job.  If you are not a great writer, then ask the company to write their own highlight footage.  Either way, be sure to pass the piece by the company to make sure all details are accurate.
  6. Record a Testimonial for YouTube – If a picture is worth a thousand words, then video is worth tons more!  Whether you record a video for them or ask them for a video testimonial.  It does not have to be a professional video with a production crew, but it should be professional.
  7. Get Pinterested in Them – Pinterest is the fastest growing social media in the female demographic.  If your clients are in this demographic, sharing an image, links, and #hashtag posts on Pinterst can get others interested in their company.  It is a good idea to have a board for nothing but client testimonials.
  8. Share the Good News – If your company has a monthly newsletter (and you should!), profiling a client or customer works to show progress as well as encourages others to strive to be featured in your newsletters, especially if your client base is business to business (B2B).  The exposure could bring new clients to their business.
  9. Linkedin is Plugged In – Linkedin is the perfect social media to recommend your clients because there are mounds of potential clients and it is set up for reviews.   By adding those reviews to your Linkedin company page or theirs, your groups, and your status feed, you can really help them get the word out.

The best way to think about ways to say Thank You to your clients is to use your social media FREE real estate to help them build their reputation and following.  This method builds good will with your important clients as well as gives you great content for your social channels.

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The Networking Personality – How to Go From Wall Flower to Business Power

May 21, 2013

Business Women - Networking in High Heels

Business Women – Networking in High Heels

In networking events all across the country, from Chamber After Hours to professional luncheons to business mixers, there are always those people to meet and greet everyone.  Often referred to as the “movers and shakers,” the truth is these people are in possession of the networking personality.  You know, the networking personality is that set of charismatic characteristics that turns everyday business people into born promoters and marketers to help grow their contacts and enhance their connection based.

While this may seem like good fortune for those lucky few, the truth is the networking personality is only a matter of practice of these few simple rules:

  1. THIS IS NOT PROM – GET OVER YOURSELF:  This is perhaps the hardest rule for people to overcome.  Many people stand on the outside of groups during networking events waiting for someone to come up and speak to them.  In truth, the only person who ever talks to them is the servers passing around food or drinks.  The purpose of a networking event is meet people.  It is expected.  Every time you approach someone and extend your hand, you are taking a risk, but most people receive an approach very well and appreciate the effort.
  2. “NO” CAN BE GOOD:  In most people’s minds, hearing NO is the ultimate failure in networking; however, in some cases, hearing NO can be a ground breaking opportunity to disengage early and move on to an introduction that will lead to businesses.  In this case, it is very much like buying a house.  You will know quickly if the person in front of you is a good contact for you.  There is no tragedy if both of you disengages and moves on to new connections.  Be professional, ask for their business card, and move on!
  3. TAKE INSTEAD OF GIVE (Business cards):  There are two problems with giving out a business card without being asked.  First, you are spending money with every business card you give.  Save your business cards for the people who are great leads.  Second, if you give someone your business card, this means they are responsible for the contact.  Receiving a business card gives you the opportunity to stay in contact and makes your responsible for the correspondence.  Even in cases where the person is not a good contact, ask for a business card for net-weaving (see below).
  4. PRACTICE NET-WEAVING:  INTRODUCE (3) AND CONNECT (2):  At any business event, the goal is always to make connections and introduce yourself to other decision makers.  Net-weaving is a great way to keep your placement in the minds of those who are currently contacts as well as make new contacts by connecting people around you.  At every event, make it a habit to introduce three current connections and connect two new connections to others.  Why?  It is simple – when you are interested in other people’s business you stay in their mind.
  5. YOUR NAME TAG IS YOUR FRIEND:  There are three very common mistakes to wearing a name tag.  First, most people with pre-printed name tags tend to forget to wear it.  Just like wearing a shirt or shoes to a networking event, your name tag should always be in the right place.  The second most common mistake?  Putting your name tag on the wrong side.  Your nametag should always be on the right shoulder because people’s eyes travel up your arm when you extend your hand to shake hands.  Third and final note about your name tag?  Invest a few dollars in a pre-printed name tag.  Often times, writing your name on a white tag is hurried and looks unprofessional as you try to squeeze your name and company into the little 5×7 sticky paper.  It is worth a few dollars to have a clean, branded name tag that is easy to read and associate.
  6. BE KNOWN FOR SOMETHING – A DISTINCTIVE SIGNATURE:  Establishing a moniker for your appearance or a staple that people can lock in their mind is vital to the networking personality.  In a place where everyone is wearing a golf shirt with khaki pants or a simple black dress, it is easy to be “the person who always wears __________.”  For women, it might be a scarf or a hat.  For men, it might be a bowtie or a cleaver shirt pattern.  Either way, connecting something about your person to your brand makes people remember you all the more.
  7. IF YOU JUGGLE, YOU LOOK LIKE A CLOWN:  Over and over again, business struggle with the presentation of their materials.  Especially true of women with purses or bags, digging for a business card or, worse, giving someone another person’s business card is incredibly unprofessional.  If you have to dig for a clean, crisp business card, then it says that you do not have your act together.  HINT – keep your business cards in your right pocket and the business cards of others in your left pocket.  With this habit, you will automatically be able to produce a business card at moment’s notice.
  8. SOCIALIZE LATER – MEET THE PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW:  It is easy to fall back into the waiting friendships of people who you know and feel comfortable with at a networking event; however, socializing is not the goal.  Your goal is to get out there and meet the people who you are not connected.  Take the time to gather your senses and really get comfortable with those who are not in your business circle while using those opportunities to connect with familiar people through net-weaving.
  9. EVERYTHING IN YOUR HANDS ARE OBSTACLES:  At many networking event, food and drinks are supplied as part of the entrance fee.  Although this is done with goodness to allow people to relax, everything in your hand presents an obstacle to shaking hands, giving business cards, and interacting with others.  If you have set down a drink or ask someone to hold a plate of food, then you are not presenting the most positive professional appearance before those people who are thinking of doing business with you.  Clear your hands and streamline your interactions.
  10. THE BIGGEST FAILURE – FOLLOW UP:  Many times, when people leave networking events, the handful of business cards end up on a desk or thrown away.  The most important thing about the networking personality is the plans for how you will connect with the leads you develop during the event.  All of the dynamic character and outreach of the networking personality will be wasted if you do not follow up immediately with people while you are fresh in their minds.

There are many reasons to work on building the networking personality. If the cliché is true about first impressions being the best impressions, then creating a dynamic lasting connection relies on claiming a unique presence in the mind of each person encountered at the event.  After all, there is no point going to a networking event if people don’t remember you have been there.

Suppressing Your Feminine Side May Be Bad for Business

November 11, 2010

Written by Kimberly M. Wiefling, M.S.

About 15 years ago a woman I barely knew, the wife of a coworker, was listening to me describe the challenges I faced at Hewlett Packard. “You’re not using your feminine power!” she suddenly pronounced, as if she’d just discovered the cause of some mysterious chronic illness I’d been suffering from for a lifetime. My first reaction was, “Use my feminine power? I sure hope not!” Since I was obviously perplexed, she further explained that this included nurturing behaviors like bringing food and drinks to meetings, and expressing other characteristics that I’ve heard described as “soft skills” by HR pros. I guessed I missed that in the job description.

You see, I was working in high-tech, and for over a decade I’d painstakingly stamped out any semblance of femininity in my work. After earning a masters degree in physics, a field in which women are almost as scarce as on-time schedules, I’d entered the high-tech engineering world, a profession with an equally abysmal track record of attracting women. Why on earth would I want to associate myself  – in any way – with anything female in my work? I was sure I would appear weak and ineffective to my colleagues, and quite possibly my salary would decrease.

Maybe I was being a little paranoid, but until recently, I have done my best to ignore the gender issue in my career. I’ve steered clear of “radical feminism,” and I most certainly didn’t want to be perceived as “nurturing.” However, this past year I’ve been working on a book project, Scrappy Women in Business, which prompted me to reflect on the role of women in the workplace, and my own experience as a female in a predominantly male work environment. As a result of this, and the changing nature of the work environment, I’ve come to value what my wife’s colleague called my “feminine power.” But my initial hesitancy wasn’t completely unfounded, given the research on women in the workplace.

Even If I’m Not Nurturing, Chances Are People Will Think I Am

It turns out that it might not matter whether I am nurturing or not – being a woman, it’s likely that I will be perceived as nurturing by CEOs and other top executives. Catalyst, the leading global nonprofit dedicated to expanding opportunities for women in business, published a study in 2005 under the intriguing title “Women Take Care,” Men “Take Charge:” Stereotyping of U.S. Business Leaders Exposed. Their research demonstrated that, although women and men often lead in similar ways, they are perceived very differently by both male and female senior executives. Regardless of the reality, women are perceived to be better at supporting and rewarding while men are perceived to be better at delegating and influencing upward.

Unfortunately, these unconscious biases impact the perception of competence and fitness for promotion, though with the growing emphasis on teamwork and collaboration these days, I’m not sure in which direction. It turns out that female versions of leadership improve bottom line business results. Companies with higher proportion of women on their top management teams enjoyed 35% greater ROE (Return on Equity) than those with the lowest.

The Road to the Top Winds Uphill All the Way

Is there gender bias at work in the business world in general? I have no real way of knowing whether there is bias in the process, but I do know that there is a difference in the outcome – the participation and compensation of women relative to men. The measurable data from Catalyst certainly demonstrate a disparity, with less than 3% of Fortune 500 Women CEOs.

The causes no longer interest me. Making and measuring progress does. What’s measured tends to get attention, and frequently improves. Good intentions or accidental bias can no longer be acceptable as a defense for inequitable results. After all, if I accidentally run you over and land you in the hospital, you’re just as injured as if I’d driven purposely in your direction with intent to harm.

If Being More Nurturing Will Increase Project Success, Bring on the Nurturing!

I was educated as a scientist, and if I were just looking at past data I’d conclude that expressing my so-called feminine side in the high-tech business world would put me at a bit of a disadvantage. But that’s kind of like driving while only gazing into the rearview mirror. With almost everyone hating their jobs, increased emphasis on collaboration, and the coming shortfall in skilled workers, I’m thinking that a more nurturing work environment is going to be a competitive advantage.

©2010 Kimberly M. Wiefling. All Rights Reserved.

About Kimberly Wiefling

Kimberly Wiefling is a globally recognized author and business leadership consultant specializing in helping people achieve what seems impossible, but is merely difficult.  She is the author of one of the top project management books in the US, “Scrappy Project Management – The 12 Predictable and Avoidable Pitfalls Every Project Faces”, growing in popularity around the world, and published in Japanese by Nikkei Business Press.  She’s the executive editor of the whole series of Scrappy Guides, and recently published Scrappy Women in Business and Scrappy General Management. The founder of Wiefling Consulting, LLC, she consults to global business leaders committed to solving global problems profitably.

What does it take to become successful in life?

October 31, 2010

By Chia-Li Chien

Visualize your success; otherwise you’ll just be doing “stuff!”

My fellow Women Advisory Board (WAB) board member, Professor Pamela Hemphill, invited me to speak to her class at Central Piedmont Community College on June 22, 2010. Initially, Professor Hemphill asked me to speak on “what it takes to become an author” after learning about my book, Show Me The Money. But I knew not everyone in attendance would actually have a desire to become an author, so I changed my topic to “what it takes to become successful in life.”

It was 6 pm and still 95 °F with 85% humidity in Charlotte that evening. I could tell most of the people in the class were hot, tired, and only vaguely interested. I began the class by asking who would be graduating in the next one or two years. All of the class raised their hands. Then I asked if any of them were considering making money and possibly owning their own business. Again, almost everyone’s hand went up. However, when I asked who had family members who were already business owners, only one-third raised their hands.

You can learn many things in an academic environment, but the best way to learn how to own and run a business may still be by watching a family member run their business. Although there are many entrepreneur MBA classes out there, I feel that the 33% from this group of students is lucky to have family members to learn from. After all my years in business, I still consider watching and working in a family business the most effective way of learning to own and run a successful business in the future.

We went on in the class to discuss the meaning of success. First, to be successful, you must define what success looks like to you. There were several students who shared with the class. One young lady wanted to be a doctor; another gentleman shared that he wanted to be an attorney. Others also shared their ambitions. You see, it’s important for one to visualize how they see themselves as successful.  Everyone has a different definition. But without a visual map to success in your head, you may stay busy, but it will be busy doing a lot of stuff that may not lead to where you want to be.

Busy people such as parents, family members, future spouses, or friends will help define what your success looks like. It may be just because they’re nosy and want to know what you are doing after graduation. It may be that they can help create your visual map to success.

 If you are already a business owner, where are you taking your company? If you don’t have an answer, you can be sure that those same friends, family, spouse and colleagues will tell you what they think you should be doing. While others can be an example of success, don’t let their path define your success. You have full control over that.

Whatever your current or future profession, there are three things are critical for success:

1. Earn 10,000 hours of experience in your profession. In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outlier, he talks about research of famous people such as Bill Gates and the Beatles. According to Gladwell, Bill Gates earned his first 10,000 hours of programming experience before he got his first commercial contract. Many of Gladwell’s examples showed the same pattern.

One student in the CPCC classroom asked if 10,000 hours of experience could be earned in an academic setting. I guess you could say yes, since, for example, it takes about nine years to be ready to take medical boards and earn that M.D. It also takes about nine years to prepare for the bar exam. But if those 10,000 hours are through hands-on experience, that time could far out-weight academic learning only. Because in the real world, we make and learn from our mistakes.

2. Become a Super Networker. With today’s social media availability, you can connect with people much easier now compared to twenty years ago. But the key is to continue building the relationship, and to not be only “Facebook friends.” You’ll regret it if you don’t make and build those connections today.

I asked the class why becoming a super networker is important. One young man in the back shouted out, “it’s who you know, not what you know!” Yes, he is absolutely right. If you’ve heard that from colleagues, parents, and friends, and others – it’s true!

3. Become a Super Communicator. Strive to develop your writing, speaking and listening skills. Learn how to effectively to deliver your message. And of course learn to listen well, because the person talking probably has the answers you seek.

The class was ready for the writing assignment I had for them – writing their autobiography. This is a great way to brush up on communications skills as a young person. I also introduced to the class some exercises from Toastmaster International to practice their public speaking skills. No student in the classroom had heard about this organization. It’s imperative to develop communication skills in a safe, controlled environment to gain confidence for real-world applications.

Obviously, there are many more factors to success, especially in business. You can read my ten variables of Secrets of a Successful Exit or Six Secret Variables – Steps to a Successful Start-up at http://chialichien.com.

The good news is each one of you has full control over defining your success and it’s entirely up to you to fulfill that dream. So start visualizing your success now – otherwise – you’ll just be “doing stuff.”

As my time with the students was winding down, I mentioned to the class that one or two of the students in the room would most likely be extremely successful. One young lady up front raised her hand and said “That’ll be me!” I am so proud of the enthusiasm expressed by the young people in that classroom, who at first, seemed hot, tired and uninterested, just “doing stuff” and not exactly on their way to success. I was happy to be proven wrong.

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About Chia-Li Chien:   Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; helps women entrepreneurs to convert their business into meaningful personal wealth. She is the author of Show Me The Money and columnist for WomenEntrepreneur.com & Fox Business online.  She is available for consulting, speaking engagements and workshops. She can be reached at jolly@chialichien.com.

Financial independence means different things to everyone

October 5, 2010

By Chia-Li Chien

During my 2nd quarter SRI Business Retreat meeting recently, I talked with forty-six business owners about history. I used as an example the fine economists who also play the role of historian by reporting our economic situation on a monthly basis. They do a great job of telling us what is going on in the economy. For example, the Federal Reserve System provides a great deal of historical data about our overall economy. You can even download local data from your Federal Reserve branch. My branch is the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, which covers North Carolina. 

Why do you need to know about economic reports? Because these economic reports typically talk about the unemployment rates, interest rates and consumer spending that will have an impact on your business both now and in the future. Your response to the data in the reports means you play an intricate part in the overall economy. According to a recent article, 6 Things Missing From the Recovery from U.S. News & World Report, L.P., small businesses account for 65% of new jobs created in our economy. So yes, we all play a key role in the overall economy. But yet, the U.S. unemployment rate was 9.9 % in April 2010. The Wall Street Journal Economic Forecasting Survey of May 2010 predicts that unemployment will be down to 9.7% in June 2010. 

Our world is changing, and changing fast. Perhaps your big business (Fortune 500 or Global 1000) is not creating new domestic jobs up to pace compared to the past. You may see outsourcing come and go without being really certain which direction your business is going. But there is one thing for certain –not all of us will live forever. And not all of you will work in the corporate world forever, either.

Financial independence means different things to different people. But answer this question for me, ”What’s next for you?” As a mother, daughter, wife, daughter-in-law, business owner, boss, vendor, advisor, etc., my life reflects how we all have different roles to play. I did not find my true passion until I got very sick while working in a Fortune 500 company as Director of IT, with a $5 million overhead budget plus an average $10 million project budget annually. It was a wakeup call for me of sorts, when I became so sick that I slept seven days straight. I also thought I was paralyzed from my right shoulder up to my head. I awakened to realize that I had really never listened to my own voice. I knew something had to change, but I wasn’t sure what that was.

After two years in various different treatments, I finally went through comprehensive financial planning and happily came to the conclusion that I could afford to take a different journey. So I did. I resumed, or restarted, my consulting business in late 2003 and today, I love what I do! I am passionate about enabling women business owners to increase their business in value so they can enjoy financial independence. I am on a mission to innovate, to reposition and to capture value growth for women in business.

Take a look at other examples of those who followed their passions:

• Judge Shirley Fulton, is a recently retired Superior Court Judge from Mecklenburg County, NC.  She is the owner of The Wadsworth House, a meeting place for corporate, civic and social events, and she co-founded Charlotte Law School (the first for-profit law school in Charlotte).
• Cathy Maday, was in a corporate role as a Project Manager. Today, she is the owner of Wingspan Coaching, which provides management and executive coaching services for Fortune 500 firms. She and her team were recently featured on The Learning Channel (TLC).  
• Patricia Golden, was a Marketing Executive. Today, she is the owner of a ten-year-old company called My Team of Experts, Inc., a premier public relations company that helps small businesses

Perhaps your path is different when it comes to financial independence. But no matter what you choose to do, whether owning/running a business or a civic/non-profit organization, or something else entirely, what you do will depend on what your passion/purpose is calling you to fulfill. 

Consider the following:

• Find your passion/purpose and listen to the universe. No one can tell you what to do; only you can. The answer is already here if you listen carefully. Most importantly, you already hold the key to success in whatever you desire to do.
• Seek a career coach for advice. Reference my previously published article, Secrets of a Successful Exit, in which I identify ten variables to consider. The first six variables can help you decide if you want to start a business.
• Carefully analyze your situation and seek financial planning advice. But remember, your goal is not to get an approval from your CFP for retirement. The goal is to test the waters to see if you are financially ready take on a huge investment and risk such as owning a business.

The truth is that no one can predict what will happen in the future – especially in the uncertain economic environment of today. But wouldn’t you prefer to be part of the statistical history that shows an upswing, or making history brighter now for a brighter future? Begin now to visualize your future, and you’ll be the one writing your own history.

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About Chia-Li Chien:   Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; helps women entrepreneurs to convert their business into meaningful personal wealth. She is the author of Show Me The Money and columnist for WomenEntrepreneur.com & Fox Business online.  She is available for consulting, speaking engagements and workshops. She can be reached at jolly@chialichien.com.

What You Think is Right, May Only Be Cultural

October 3, 2010

By Gail Hahn

It was on the Ivory Coast of Africa while facilitating teambuilding and communication style workshops with members from 34 different African nations who all worked for the same international organization. Bringing some assemblance of order, cultural understanding, corporate culture adherence and just plain getting your point across was no small feat.

The main point was that what we think of as ‘right’ may only be cultural. It is our belief, our values, the way we think and behave based upon what we learned from our parents, society, supervisors and general socialization. We can take this further in business and in life by saying what we think of as the right thing to do may be based upon regional, national, familial, political, gender specific, religious or corporate cultural norms.

We can take this to personal relationships and how we run our families and households to how we celebrate traditions or how we offer ourselves to the world. We see this play out in corporate culture not only among different nationalities, but in every single individual and what ideologies and work ethics they bring to the workplace. The clash between Baby Boomers, Traditionalists and the New Generation X and Y’s is a classic example of who holds what important and how they get things done.

Blending your personal cultural values with your corporate culture or even if it’s your personal corporation for entrepreneurs can be a tricky minefield. When you catch yourself saying ‘they should’ or ‘he shouldn’t’ or ‘that’s a stupid rule’, you may need to take a fresh perspective on the situation. Whenever you hear the words ‘should’ come out of your mouth, it’s a red flag that you’re in somebody else’s business or placing your way of ‘right’ onto somebody or something else.

Managing the ‘rightness’ of how things are done in your partnership, in your work, with your coach, in your family or in moving through the world takes awareness that your ‘right’ may not be somebody else’s ‘right’.  Seeing the world through a different pair of eyes gives us a new perspective. Even is that someone else is a new and improved you.

After working with coaches, I am continually gaining new insight and new perspective on how I do my life and my work. I find where I once saw the ‘right’ line, is now a more flexible noodle of a line. It’s softer, more flexible, more gray and moveable. I find myself saying ‘isn’t that an interesting way to look at things’ much more often. Who is coaching you to take a look at what’s right or what doesn’t work in your life and in your business? Is your ‘right line’ bold, straight and immoveable or does it have some play or is it open for discussion?

I invite you to be more open and aware of different ‘rights’ that pop into your life and take a gander, then ask yourself ‘who says it’s right?’.

About Gail Hahn:  Gail Hahn, MA, CSP, CEO (Chief Energizing Officer) of Funcilitators is an International Keynote Speaker, Author, Corporate Trainer, Coach, Talk Show Host of The Energized Entrepreneur Show, Executive with BizBuilderCards and Energy Expert inspiring organizations to optimize their motivation, morale and meaning at work, and educating entrepreneurs and executives to revitalize their work, workforce, wealth and well-being.  Claim your free 50-page e-book on Energizing at her blog: www.GailHahn.com.

What Does Breast Cancer Cost?

October 1, 2010

By Susan Shargel

What does health care really cost?  What are our insurance premiums really paying for?

We at Shargel & Co. were inspired by the recent health care stories on NPR’s This American Life; specifically, the way Ira Glass and his team take complex policy issues and make them understandable.  I wanted to create a piece that brings some light to the very murky area of health care costs.

So I decided to work with one of our clients who has recently completed treatment for breast cancer.  She had been very satisfied with her medical care and very pleased with her insurance coverage. The client had a pile of statements from the insurance company showing what had been billed and what insurance had paid.  She knew she had paid $12,900 but had no idea what her care had actually cost. We volunteered to find the answer for her.

We set up a spreadsheet and recorded all 71 claims statements, which are called “Explanations of Benefits”. Our client’s treatment consisted of a lumpectomy, which included an overnight hospital stay, a second outpatient lumpectomy to get clearer margins, and radiation therapy. The total amount billed by her heath care providers for her cancer care was $255,200. 

But that’s not the amount that was paid for her treatment. Why not? Because she has insurance. If she had been uninsured she would have been responsible for the full billed amount. With insurance, the amount paid for her care is determined by the prices that her insurance company has negotiated with the doctors and hospital that are part of its preferred provider network (PPO). In this case, Blue Shield of California’s negotiated pricing reduced the cost of her breast cancer treatment to $124,500; she paid $12,900 and her insurance paid the rest.

It is hard for most us to grasp why this kind of care is so expensive. The treatment itself did not require major surgeries.  It did not require weeks or months of hospital care. Yet the cost exceeded the price of a house in many parts of the country; it exceeded the cost of 4 years of public university education.

We can draw several key conclusions from this story about what is going right in our healthcare system as well as what is wrong. First, we all are grateful for the successful treatment of diseases such as breast cancer.  We value the research and the care of medical professionals that have made many cancers and other chronic health conditions treatable.  Secondly, we realize the value of insurance; without it, these costs are unaffordable for almost all of us. But we also know that the cost of insurance is becoming unaffordable for too many.

Our call to action is that health reform must directly address the cost of care. The cost of our insurance can’t be controlled if the cost of care continues to skyrocket. Health reform must promote, support, and fund health care innovation that focuses on the delivery of quality care at a much lower price.  

About Susan Shargel:  Susan Shargel is a California health insurance broker and small business owner. This site provides information on health insurance issues. I welcome your comments and questions.

Important Reminder: 
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer.  Dont wait…survival depends on early detection!

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