With the 50th anniversary of the moon landing occurring last year, there have been a series of multi-part podcasts released on that seminal event of the 20th century. If you are a podcast person, I’d suggest listening to “13 Minutes to the Moon” and “The Cold War: What We Saw.” Both are fantastic accounts of the moon landing from beginning to end.


I love the little tidbits that you pick up in hearing about the history of things. For example, conventional wisdom in the early 1960s was that any moon shot must occur using the “direct ascent” method. This method, widely accepted among the astrophysicists of the time, involved a C8 Nova Rocket, a massive missile comprising enough fuel and material that would shoot straight to the moon in one piece and return to Earth.


(Fun fact, many thought the weight of this rocket would sink into the lunar dust.)


Incredibly expensive and inefficient as it was, many did not see any other avenue to accomplish President Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon before 1970.


In 1962, there was a middle-level NASA engineer by the name of John Houbalt. Houbalt circumvented the chain of command in an unheard-of move (there weren’t exactly millennials around in the early ‘60s) and penned a letter to the upper levels of NASA leadership, advocating against this direct ascent method.


In its place, Houbalt advocated for a single, smaller rocket, where many small, interoperable components were used in a multi-stage process. John Houbalt was hated. He was seen as a pest by many in NASA. But his multi-stage, smaller component, interoperable approach was less expensive, safer, and quicker to implement to achieve the goal of sending a man to the moon and returning him safely to Earth. In the end, as we all now know, this approach is what was used.


How does this fascinating piece of history relate to insurance?


The majority of today’s employers are using the equivalent of a C8 Nova rocket in a direct ascent approach to the moon as the basis for accomplishing their moon-shot goal of controlling their group health plan costs.


The entire “network, broker, health insurer, and pharmacy benefit manager” approach under one plan as one single entity that is expected to serve as a benefit for employees is causing employer and employee budgets to sink under its weight.


There are John Houbalts of the benefits world out there who unbundle health plans and put them back together in a multi-stage, coordinated approach. Our version of the Saturn 5 Rocket is comprised of:


  • An independent, value-based third-party administrator (TPA)
  • A pass-through, fiduciary pharmacy benefits manager (PBM)
  • A transparent and open physician and facility network


All of those pieces are being piloted by a transparent advisor who monitors and adjusts the direction of the ship.


When done correctly and the goal is accomplished, solving the problem of high-cost health coverage is a seminal moment in an organization. It can be a source of pride for your company culture and the view of your company as an employer of choice in your market.