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Paduda: Are You the Frog in The Pot?

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At some point the frog figures out the water is getting too hot, but by then the heat has sapped so much of its strength that it can’t escape. It’s morbidly funny — except if you’re the frog.

Joe Paduda

Joe Paduda

Our economy is changing so rapidly, many businesses, “thought leaders,” regulators, legislators and other actors are going to be shocked when they find their long-held beliefs — and the businesses based on them — are no longer valid.

More succinctly, ignorance kills, and there’s a LOT of ignorance out there.

How much of your business relies on blue-collar employment? If you are a work comp insurer, case management company, adjusting firm or loss-prevention entity, likely a lot.

If you are a worker in that business, times are changing rapidly indeed.

If you had a job laying communications cables, wireless technology killed it. If you bolted pipes together in an oil field, a machine can do it faster better cheaper, and with no injury risk. If you inspected pipes to look for possible weak spots, a robot can do that way more effectively and efficiently than you can. If you analyzed data in the field to figure out precisely where to drill to find natural gas reserves, a computer is about to replace you.

Oil rigs are increasingly automated. Even if we continue on this disastrous push to increase use of carbon-based energy, it isn’t going to do much to help blue-collar workers. Rigs that used to need 20 workers now do just fine with five. One Texas oil producer added more than 200 new wells without hiring a single additional worker.

Coal production is falling because natural gas is much cheaper and easier to use, but coal mining jobs are disappearing largely because of automation. Studies indicate 40%-80% of mining jobs are at risk due to automation.

I’ve posted before about the coming demise of the long-haul trucker, one of the few blue-collar jobs that still provides something close to middle-class pay and benefits.

And don’t think those workers are going to jump industries and become construction workers. Even if Congress and the president are able to pass a huge infrastructure bill, there will be fewer jobs than you might expect. Even construction is being automated. Think these guys and gals are likely to get hurt?

What does this mean for you?

How far out is your business forecast, exit plan or “equity event?”

Joe Paduda is co-owner of CompPharma, a consortium of pharmacy benefit managers. This column is republished with his permission from his Managed Care Matters blog.

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