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Developing A Book Publishing Healthcare Cooperative

Sunday, June 21, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Brian O'Leary

As part of governance changes made in 2017, BISG created the Association Advisory Council (AAC), a gathering of associations serving the many parts of book publishing. Inspired by similar convenings hosted by the American Booksellers Association and the Association of American Publishers, the AAC has met quarterly since late 2017.

At a meeting in April 2018, Kent Watson, then the executive director of PubWest, proposed that the group evaluate the feasibility of providing healthcare coverage to the various organizations members. The AAC chair, IBPA president & CEO Angela Bole, took on the challenge, gathering a group that at various times numbered more than 20 associations.

Given the topic, the work was as intricate as you'd expect, and there were stops, restarts, and lots of education about how healthcare works in the U.S. Last week, ten associations finalized an agreement with LIG Solutions to offer healthcare to their members, with a launch date planned for later this summer.

Participating associations include the American Booksellers Association, American Society for Indexing, Authors Guild, BISG, Graphic Artists Guild., Horror Writers Association, Independent Book Publishers Associations, Novelists Inc., Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and Western Writers of America. BISG will serve as the principal point of contact on behalf of the associations for communications with LIG regarding the Agreement.

The agreement remains open to other associations, and a couple of organizations have already expressed interest in learning about the offer. The effort has been a cooperative one, with at-times weekly calls spread out over two years. Multiple associations collaborated to evaluate alternatives, seek out options and potential partners, and structure a final agreement that we hope will serve the healthcare needs of the book industry.

Leadership came from all parts of the group, with notable contributions from PubWest's Kent Watson and the ABA's Robyn DesHotel (now in a new role with an association outside the book industry). The initiative would have stalled on multiple occasions without the persistence of IBPA's Angela Bole, who maintained schedules, agendas, meeting notes, and process recaps for an ever-evolving conversation among association representatives who largely came to this without any prior relationships.

The group, now referred to as the Book Industry Health Insurance Partnership (BIHIP), shows how cooperation can work across industry associations and the book industry as a whole. There are significant differences in member profiles for the organizations that have joined the cooperative. Several are made up of individual members, while others represent smaller companies. The health-care options that make sense for individual members aren't necessarily the same as those that work for companies with employees.

At BISG, our membership consists of companies that largely don't need an association to provide health care options. We do have some individual members, and we'll market the LIG options to all members when the program launches this summer. We stayed in the discussions largely because health care matters to the industry, and we felt that any support we could provide fits well with our mission and the purposes we had in mind when we created the Association Advisory Council.

I think important lessons can be drawn from the healthcare project. As an industry, we can tackle big problems and work collaboratively to solve them. That work can take time - in our case, two-plus years - and it requires persistent leadership, particularly in the face of adversity or some unexpected turns. Longer-term change efforts must be guided by agreed-upon principles, and those agreements need nurturing and regular reminders for those involved.

But we can succeed, and we can bring the industry with us. As we try to think through our post-pandemic work life, where our notions of workflow, supply chain, and metadata will likely change, that's a guiding principle, as well.



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