I'm often asked why I am so passionate about solving the healthcare chrisis in the United States. As we prepare to share our solutions, I hope that you will allow me the opportunity to also share with you a personal connection to the problem of healthcare that keeps me motiviated.
Growing up, our family didn’t have health insurance. My father was the Pastor of a small church in Midland, Texas, and the congregation operated on a limited budget. For this reason, health insurance for its staff was, unfortunately, not an option. By the age of 12, I would require more than 10 surgeries due to a non-life threatening a medical condition. While minor in nature, these procedures created a significant financial burden to our family. Not realizing the reasoning at the time, I watched as my father would take jobs outside of his role at our church to be able to either obtain health insurance and/or earn enough money to pay for the treatments of my condition.
Both of my parents were selfless like that, always putting their family first, others second and themselves last. Growing up, we were not poor, but didn’t have a lot of money either. I don’t recall ever going without, as a matter of fact, I always thought we must have had significant means because my brothers and I always seemed to have more than we needed or really wanted. We were rich, but not in the monetary sense, rather in that we had two parents who first loved each other, loved us, and showed us that love often.
Contrary to the belief of those that know me best, I did not grow up with aspirations of being in the health insurance and healthcare industry. While other kids were wearing superman capes, fire fighter helmets or police badges, I wasn't wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase...okay, maybe I was but not with the idea that it was lead me into career I have now. Like most children I dreamed of being a policeman, or cowboy like John Wayne; however, there was always something within me that liked to fix things. My mother loves telling the story of when I was three years old, getting in my little red, foot powered car with my toy tool bag and going to the various neighbors’ homes up and down our street and asking if they had anything that needed “fix’n.”. The idea of repairing that which was broken has always been part of my core.
By college I was, I suppose, like many adolescence, really trying to find my purpose and place in the world. It was actually my college counselor that helped me enter into the health insurance space by encouraging me to pursue something I enjoyed. No, I didn’t enjoy insurance, rather playing golf and, per her recommendation, I began surveying people who got to play a lot of golf throughout the week, and to my surprise, many were in the insurance business. By the time I was 30 years old, I had worked for a local firm in West Texas, myself (trying to start my own insurance agency in my early 20’s), a national insurance carrier, and finally, had found myself about to be named partner of a boutique insurance consulting firm in North Texas. I had, so I thought, found my place in this world and was even able to find time for a round of golf or two each week.
It was a Thursday – I’ll never forget – when all my “plans” changed. December 30th, 2010 was a day that would end one season and begin a new one, but one more focused and determined than ever. On the eve of being named partner at the firm that I had called home for nearly 5 years, I was informed by the existing partners that they had, instead, decided to sell the organization to national brokerage. Looking back, I don’t fault them for their decision – the employee benefits and health insurance landscape was (and still is) in season of massive uncertainty. Our firm was small, but successful, and out of a desire to maintain that success, the leaders of our firm felt that the best option was to align ourselves with a larger, more powerful and influential organization. I myself was crushed. Sitting in the conference room as I learned the news of the soon to be acquisition, I couldn’t fight my emotions. It was as if a family was breaking apart – my family. I had grown to love our organization, the people within it, and what we stood for. Times were changing; however, and I was not prepared for this change.
Given the speed by which the acquisition was to take place, I did not have time to plan out alternatives. Twelve short hours after learning of our firms change, the announcement was to be made and go into effect two days later. While trying to decide whether or not to join the larger firm that was acquiring us or determine alternative next steps, something was said to me that changed the focus of my purpose and career from that point on. During the short window of time that I had to make a career decision about my next steps, it was said to me that if I were to join the larger, more powerful firm that I would “make more money that I ever dreamed possible.” It was in that moment that I flashed back to a conversation that my father and I had almost 12 years prior. It was in centerfield of a baseball stadium in Abilene, Texas my senior year of high school. I was preparing to play what would be the last baseball game of my life, and as was part of my routine, my father and I would visit pre-game while I got ‘loosened up’. Much like the career situation in which I found myself in 2010, twelve years earlier, I was also struggling a decision of which college to attend and whether or not to continue my baseball career. While on that field in Abilene, my father said something to me that I had forgotten up until that December afternoon in 2010. He said, “Whatever decisions you make, don’t start chasing money, because you’ll find that you will never catch it.”
To that point in my career I was focused on the title and the dollar. How high could I climb the ladder, what status could I obtain, and how much money could I make. I don’t believe I was arrogant or pretentious, but my purpose lacked in proper focus. I appreciated the statement that was made to me as I struggled with the decision about my next steps. For when I heard the words “more money than I ever dreamed possible” it brought back to memory the encouragement of my father. I made a decision in that moment, that I would re-focus my goals and rather than be part of the perpetuating problem go back to the dream I had when I was three years old and begin the process of “fix’n” things.