Corporate Head of Benefits - THE Most Powerful Position in Healthcare for 60% of Americans

By: Eric Bricker, MD

The Corporate Head of Benefits is the most powerful position in healthcare for the 60% of Americans that have employer-sponsored health insurance.

The Head of Benefits may have different titles depending on the company such as: 1) Director of Total Rewards, 2) Director of Compensation and Benefits or 3) Director of Employee Benefits.

Employer-sponsored health insurance now costs approximately $12,000 per plan member per year. Most employers have a ratio of 2 plan members for every 1 employee on the plan… that’s an annual healthcare cost of $24,000 per employee.

Accordingly, for many employers, healthcare and health insurance are the second largest company expense after payroll. The Head of Benefits is in charge of this expense and is in the best position to use it for positive change.

To bring positive change to healthcare, the Corporate Head of Benefits must be: 1) proactive, not passive 2) a great communicator 3) an excellent persuader… using credibility, consensus-building, and logic.


The best Heads of Employee Benefits do not rely solely on their insurance broker or benefits consultant to bring them solutions for their employee health plan. Yes, bringing these solutions is one of the roles of an insurance broker or benefits consultant. However, the best Heads of Benefits take ownership of their responsibility over the employee health plan and do not rely only on consulting advice. 

They set the agenda. They lead the vision. They are responsible for the results. They know it and they embrace it.

Great Communicator

The best Heads of Employee Benefits know they must collaborate with colleagues across their organization: the executive team, finance, frontline managers, and employees. Because no one is a ‘mind reader,’ the best Heads of Employee Benefits know they must communicate within their organization 1) frequently and 2) in a variety of ways.

The best Heads of Employee Benefits reach out to their colleagues to speak with them monthly and quarterly… not once a year in preparate for ‘Open Enrollment.’

The best Heads of Employee Benefits don’t just rely on email to communicate. Instead, they know that the human face and human voice are much more effective communication tools than the written word. They are talkers and listeners…not ‘emailers.’


The best Heads of Employee Benefits need to form a coalition within their organization to realize their employee health plan goals. To persuade, they use credibility, consensus-building, and logic… in that order.

They establish credibility through expertise. They have a detailed understanding of how health insurance and healthcare works. It is a complicated industry, but they do their homework and are constantly educating themselves.

They build consensus through listening. Like the statement above, they have conversations with colleagues… not email exchanges.

Finally, they use logic and are rational…using data to ‘make their case.’ However, they do not lead with logic, rather logic comes last. They establish credibility and build consensus first. All the data in the world will not persuade unless it is used on a foundation of credibility and consensus.

Brian Marcotte, the former Head of Benefits at Honeywell and the former President and CEO of the Business Group on Health personifies these qualities and demonstrates the amazing things that can be accomplished by the Head of Benefits.

With these skills, the Corporate Head of Benefits is THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON for improving employee health, reducing suffering, and increasing longevity for the 60% of Americans that have Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance. More important than doctors. More important than hospitals.

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