By: Ron E. Peck, Esq. Once upon a time, employers offered employees “benefit plans,” with an eye toward attracting and retaining a talented workforce. The word – benefit – literally means something good; positive; of added value. At some point, though, health insurance became less of a benefit and more of an entitlement. At first it was an entitlement in theory, only, but more recently it became an entitlement according to law. Next, between minimum value plans and high deductible plans, these so-called “benefit” plans became a point of contention – bad blood – between employers and employees. Employers are increasingly frustrated with the rising cost of medical services and medication, as well as their employees’ perceived lack of concern or “skin in the game.” Employees see co-pays and deductibles rising, and assume that greedy employers and “insurance companies” are looking to give them less, while expecting more from them. When did we stop thinking of these plans as a “benefit?” Fortunately, there are a few entities that still believe that “benefit” in “benefit plan,” has meaning , and are offering innovative ways to cut costs without reducing coverage – focusing on needs and avoiding worthless, wasteful endeavors. From directing participants to use only the best, most cost effective providers, to rewarding them for spotting errors… from providing benefits that people actually need, and carving out high cost rarely needed services… by engaging providers in negotiation and direct contracting rather than blind faith on a third party’s efforts… we are all empowering plans, and returning the “benefit” to benefit plans.