A Mission to Drive Healthcare Transparency
Entrepreneurship did not come easily to Bryce Heinbaugh.
What he most remembers about starting his employee benefits risk management consulting company is getting a huge hand from the late Paul Demshar and sitting in Demshar’s East 46th Street office making cold call after cold call after cold call, up to 300 per day.
“You get beat up,” he said of what he called “dialing for dollars.”
But it worked.
Sixteen years later, Heinbaugh, a partner in IEN Risk Management Consultants, is one of three nominees for Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County’s 2017 Kaull Entrepreneurship Award.
“It took me about four months to get my first revenue sale, six months to get my first commission check and nearly 18 months before I had enough money to begin paying rent and utilities to Paul – who had told me not to worry about that until I could afford it,” he said.
Eventually, business not only progressed but snowballed.
Surviving open heart surgery at age 22 to repair a hole in his heart, Heinbaugh struck out on his own in 2001 after earning a business and finance degree from Baldwin-Wallace University.
The Cleveland Clinic heart surgeon had told his family that he had never operated on someone with a hole so large.
Just 45 days later, Heinbaugh sat for the Ohio Life/Health Insurance exam, and a year later, on just a handshake, Demshar offered him free office space.
“I’ve never worked for anyone,” Heinbaugh said, disregarding retail and restaurant jobs held since age 12 to support himself and his mother. The pair moved 15 times as his mother secured progressively better jobs.
The most recent expansion of Heinbaugh Benefits resulted from March 2010, passage of the Affordable Care Act. It merged with five other Northern Ohio employee-owned insurance brokerage companies to create Insurance Exchange Navigators (IEN) Risk Management Consultants, headquartered in Ashtabula.
Creating self-funded insurance and benefits packages, IEN has a market niche of large companies such as auto dealers, manufacturers and the airline industry – parts makers and private jet companies. It creates self-funded plans where businesses pay claims for employees and their families.
“Our mission is to drive health-care transparency,” Heinbaugh said. “We aren’t really selling insurance. We create business models for transparency.”
Self-funded plans help companies absorb huge increases in health-care costs. And, according to Heinbaugh, efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act – which Heinbaugh believes will implode America’s health care system if left untouched – are creating an even more challenging business environment.
“The ACA helps the poor and those just above the poverty level, but everyone else, especially the working middle class, are hurting,” he said. “The ACA has hit small businesses in the knees, especially those with two to 50 employees. Because of minimal options and strict regulations, there is no way to be creative to lower the health-care costs because these companies have to buy a fully insured plan. But even restructured, the ACA is probably going to be around a lot longer.”
Heinbaugh has responded to the industry challenges by stepping outside the box and adding two nurses to his six-member staff that is outgrowing the East 46th Street office.
“Lots of nurses in hospital settings are tired of the corporate setting and are looking for a change,” he said. “If you had health-insurance questions, would you rather talk to an agent or a nurse?”
Heinbaugh also has a consulting pharmacist on staff for counsel on pharmaceuticals, particularly “specialty” drugs, which cost thousands of dollars for a single injection.
Heinbaugh, who went on to earn an MBA in healthcare, views the proliferation of expensive “specialty drugs” as another reason to drive transparency – his favorite part of the business. “I hate the term, but I have to explain to CEOs and CFOs that you don’t know what you don’t know about health care,” he said. “It’s satisfying to grow our footprints across the county.”
Heinbaugh cites the “early to bed, early to rise…” adage as a key to his success. He is up before 4:30 a.m. daily, answering e-mails before running at 6 a.m. Point Park in Ashtabula four miles to the hospital, then back to Bridge Street for coffee at the Harbor Perk.
Heinbaugh is a board member of the Lift Bridge Community Association, the Demshar Foundation, Erie Bank and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. In 2014, he was among the “Top 5 Under 45” awardees from the Young Professionals of Ashtabula County.
With a thriving business in a community he loves, life is good for Heinbaugh and his wife, Lisa, a physical therapist at Ashtabula County Nursing Home, and their six-year-old son and two-year-old daughter adopted last year from China.
“I believe that all things happen for a reason,” Heinbaugh said. “God has blessed me by putting me in the right place at the right time.”