The following interview with HealthMarkets insurance agent Susan Sundberg has been edited for clarity. This interview was conducted in person and through email.
If you’re a small business owner, providing your employees with an affordable employee benefit package can become overwhelming. For Sheryl White, providing standard employee benefits was going to bankrupt the small business she had worked in since childhood and inherited from her father. Luckily, Sheryl was introduced to Susan Sundberg, an independent HealthMarkets licensed insurance agent. With Susan’s help, Sheryl was able to provide all of her employees with affordable health insurance and save $25,000. To see how Susan was able to help Sheryl create an affordable employee benefit package, read on.
HealthMarkets: How did you first meet Sheryl of The Fiddly Fig?
Sundberg: One of my Medicare customers was a really good friend of Sheryl’s. The Medicare customer came to me and said, “I have this friend who runs a business, and she’s so scared of losing it. Could you talk to her and see if there are any options? You helped me. Can you help her?”
So I said, “Certainly.” I met Sheryl at her business, and she shared her concerns with me about the rising cost of healthcare. Actually, she was sitting at a table, and she had the new rate increase on her existing group plan in her hands. Sheryl said she had met with five other agents so far. None of the agents had any options that would work. She had a distraught face. She didn’t want to waste my time but was hoping HealthMarkets would be the one to have the answer.
HealthMarkets: So, Sheryl’s main concern for her small business was the cost of her employee benefit package?
Sundberg: Yes. She was getting an 80 percent rate increase. This was the largest increase I heard from an employer so far. Fewer and fewer people were able to buy into her plan. So, while she had 25 employees, only half of them were currently able to pay their half of the premium, and now it was going to be even less.
With this increase, her main concern was the rising cost of healthcare causing her to close that business. But her next concern was, “If I close this business, I’m closing it on people who have worked for my family for 30, some of them 40, years. What are these people going to do?” Sheryl was going to be fine. Her husband had a job. My perception of her real concern was, “What about these people who I grew up knowing?”
Her dad created the business, and they ran it together. Her dad passed away suddenly the previous April. So, the weight of the entire business was on her shoulders, as well as the future livelihood of the people who were in the business. These people were close personal friends of hers—people who shared Thanksgiving and Christmas. They were family to her.
HealthMarkets: What did you tell Sheryl after she shared her employer benefit package concerns with you?
Sundberg: Well, first I told her I was going to stay with her until we found a solution that worked. I’d been able to do that for so many businesses, I was very confident that would be the case again. I said, “Look, I’m not leaving you. We’re going to do this together.”
Then, we set about the simple task of just following the HealthMarkets way. I let her know who we are, all the insurance companies we represent, and what we’re going to do together. Fortunately, we have a scientific needs analysis, which makes understanding the goals of a benefit package simple. We don’t miss anything important.
HealthMarkets: Did you show her any benefit package examples?
Sundberg: We looked at example benefit packages for one of her lower paid employees and her right- hand person. Sheryl was impressed with the available options. She really appreciated some of the accident coverage we talked about. One of the people working for her store wasn’t able to pay his half of the group health insurance premium and shortly after had a serious car accident. A supplemental plan that offers cash benefits like the one we discussed would have made all the difference for him. Sheryl saw the benefit of working together, and she decided to take the next step and schedule the one-on-one needs analysis with each employee.
HealthMarkets: What would you say the most memorable moment was when you were helping Sheryl with her employee benefit package?
Sundberg: I’ve got to tell you, there is no question about that moment. It will live in my mind as long as I have a mind good enough to remember. We help a lot of businesses, but we don’t really get a chance to hear the full extent of how we help people.
Several years after we put options in place for Sheryl’s employees, I had a chance to talk with her. I turned to Sheryl and said: “Sheryl, two years ago when we met, did you think we would be here listening to your employees rave about their health insurance coverage? How affordable it is? How it’s helped them with medications for their kids that they couldn’t afford otherwise? Did you ever think, two years ago when we met, that we would be hearing them talk about benefits like this? That you would have a competitor bring you all of his clients as he retired because he knew you were the best equipped to take care of them? And now your business is growing. Did you ever dream two years ago that this is where we would be?”
She looked at me, and she said, “Susan, when I met you, I had forgotten how to dream.” Getting affordable benefits in place saved my business. She was very matter-of-fact. She’d been through the wringer. Just hearing her say that made me realize the importance of what we do when we help employers save their businesses, one business at a time.
HealthMarkets: What would you say the most memorable moment was when you were helping Sheryl’s employees with their benefit packages?
Sundberg: Actually, the first employee I sat down with one-on-one said, “We know Sheryl can’t afford health insurance for us anymore. We’ve all decided we’re just going to go without it. We love Sheryl. We loved her dad. We love what we do. We love our customers. We’re all staying, and it is probably a waste of time, but we’re glad you’re here.” It was my pleasure to help each of these employees find the coverage they needed and deserved; some were getting coverage for the first time in 20 years.
(Sheryl’s employees were ultimately all able to have insurance with affordable premiums.)
Get Help With Your Employee Benefit Package Without Breaking the Bank
Susan showed Sheryl what HealthMarkets can do for small business owners. She was able to help Sheryl get all of her employees insured, keep her business from going bankrupt, and stop her from worrying about administering health insurance year after year—all through no-cost consultations Susan set up with Sheryl and each of her employees. If you want this kind of advice when choosing a benefits package that works for your employees, contact us today at (800) 976-5818.