The Benefits Playbook

Self-Funding Isn’t Just for Large Groups with John Meister, Principal & Senior Vice President of Employee Benefits at Newfront

Episode Summary

This episode features an interview with John Meister, Principal and Senior Vice President of Employee Benefits at Newfront. John provides top-tier consulting, creative strategies, and employee advocacy on behalf of his clients nationwide. Prior to Newfront, John spent five years leading Client Strategy and Execution at Woodruff Sawyer and held Employee Benefits roles at One Digital and Burnham Benefits. In this episode, Sasha sits down with John to discuss transitioning to self-funded solutions, key components of a great member experience, and building point solutions into benefits programs.

Episode Notes

This episode features an interview with John Meister, Principal and Senior Vice President of Employee Benefits at Newfront. John provides top-tier consulting, creative strategies, and employee advocacy on behalf of his clients nationwide. Prior to Newfront, John spent five years leading Client Strategy and Execution at Woodruff Sawyer and held Employee Benefits roles at One Digital and Burnham Benefits.

In this episode, Sasha sits down with John to discuss transitioning to self-funded solutions, key components of a great member experience, and building point solutions into benefits programs.


“When I talk with some companies that are unfamiliar with self-funding, really, they think it's just this totally apples and oranges approach. I try to just explain to them, ‘Hey, built into your premiums right now, we can take a look at what the insurance companies are doing for self-funding. They have stop loss built-in. They have their PBMs built-in. And there’s just layers of admin costs and profit built into each of these that then comprises your premium rate that you're getting charged.’ Just by trying to compare it to what they know right now, to then what it would be to self-funding, that also, I think, is usually a big light-bulb moment for a lot of clients. Just to feel like, ‘Oh, this isn't actually that much different than what I'm doing.’ It's just, ‘Hey, we're going to set the rates for what we say you should budget for. It's going to be that set number that you're used to.’ Conversations like that usually are the foundation to then go on.” – John Meister


Episode Timestamps:

*(01:13): John explains Newfront 

*(08:19): How John talks to his clients about moving to self-funded solutions

*(24:14): The key components of a great member experience for clients

*(28:49): John discusses point solutions and the difference it makes in benefits programs 

*(31:51): John’s advice to those new to the industry



Connect with John on LinkedIn

Connect with Sasha on LinkedIn

Learn more about Collective Health

Episode Transcription

Sasha Yamaguchi: Let's face it, healthcare is confusing and costs are continuing to rise. Employers are looking for ways to improve the health of their people and their bottom lines. The good news? Many leading companies are leveraging self-funded health plans and innovative benefit solutions to do just that. Learn from some of the best minds in employee health.

Sasha Yamaguchi: Welcome to the Benefits Playbook, strategies for self-funded health plans. I'm your host, Sasha Yamaguchi. Commercial Leader at Collective Health. Welcome, everyone. On today's episode, we are joined by John Meister, Principal and VP of Employee Benefits at NewFront. John previously served at companies like Woodruff Sawyer, OneDigital, and Burnham Benefits, where he led Client Strategy and Execution.

Sasha Yamaguchi: Thank you so much, John, for being here with us. So John, with this podcast, we're trying to get the word out around self-funding, around different strategies that employers can put into place with their employee benefits. So we'll, we'll get into all of that, but I thought we could start with why did you join Newfront?

Sasha Yamaguchi: Tell us a little bit about Newfront because I do think that will lead into some of the things that we're going to talk about today.

John Meister: Yeah, so Newfront is the combination of two firms that merged together. There was ABD, the ABD group was a kind of full service insurance brokerage firm that was headquartered up in the Bay Area.

John Meister: And they were kind of that traditional broker that you would think of. I had heard of them a lot from my colleagues up in the Bay Area as just a company we really respected. We would lose opportunities or lose clients sometimes to them. And so I never had competed with them personally down South, but always had this kind of respect for that name.

John Meister: Newfront Insurance was this brand new startup company that had also reached out and was recruiting me. And they had very much kind of that tech forward. I know they were VC backed. The founders of the company were really impressive. And so when both companies merged together, it did seem like this perfect marriage where we call it the bionic broker, where really it just was this awesome combination between that kind of typical brokerage and the services they're providing to The clients that really behind the scenes were second to none what we offer and what we take care of for our clients and then also leveraging the technology that our engineers, I think we have about 50 engineers now that have come from companies like Facebook, Tesla to actually build technology platforms here in house for both our service teams and clients.

John Meister: So for me personally, I felt like. Looking at where the industry is going, really health insurance is one of those last industries that really haven't had a transformative change like so many other companies have done and industries have done in the past with Silicon Valley. So it really was just that very exciting time for me.

John Meister: Taking a look at what my clients were, frankly, starting to get frustrated at from healthcare, from what employee benefits was going. And so it just, it felt like just such a good marriage between those two companies. And for me, my service teams that came over, I brought a large team with me. And so it just was one of those opportunities where it just felt like I'm couldn't be more excited.

John Meister: And so. Two years in now, it's been everything I needed it to be. My clients are extremely happy. It's just a fun, exciting story to be able to tell clients around how we can help and all the things that are now starting to come out to bear from the technologies. It's just, it's really exciting. 

Sasha Yamaguchi: Wow. That sounds great.

Sasha Yamaguchi: And I mean, technology is. I feel like really important, especially going forward in our industry and helping these employers manage their health plan and all the things that, you know, we want to get to members to help them have a good experience. So interesting to hear that kind of you guys are also centered around a lot of technology.

Sasha Yamaguchi: I think that's great.  

John Meister: I mean, it really is one of those moments in time. We talk about it behind the scenes that, you know, you think about when the internet came on, right? When, I mean, social media took off. Here we are now with AI and chat GPT. I mean, it really is this once in a lifetime moment, it feels like.

John Meister: And so we're poised to be able to take advantage of that, right? That we're already investing in technology. I just think it's such a fast shortcut, if you think of it that way, to you. Actually get all of these new things out to the market. So I really actually feel really grateful just that we happen to have the technology.

John Meister: We happen to have the people, we had the investment from Goldman Sachs to kind of make that all happen. And again, just exciting to really think about if you can think back to what it was in the mid nineties with the internet, right. Or it kind of in the late 2000s with all these tech companies going off, it just will look back.

John Meister: And I think look back on this specific time here in the early twenties and just think, Oh gosh, we were part of that. 

Sasha Yamaguchi: Yeah, that's great. So, self-funding, I feel, is such a big topic right now, mostly because, in the old days, a lot of companies moved to self-funding when they were really large, right? self-funding was only for larger groups, for, Big employers.

Sasha Yamaguchi: And I really feel like we're starting to see that change and smaller to medium size groups are more interested. I think they're still a little nervous, but what are you seeing just in general in the industry, but also your own clients and the size of group that's now interested and or moving to self-funded?

John Meister: Yeah, I agree with that assessment. I think I was really lucky early in my career, right when I started as a broker a number of years ago now, my mentor within my firm, he was a self-funded guru. He was, you know, really bullish on taking companies self-funded and this is 10 years ago now. And funny enough, my mother in law actually was a VP Was a client of his, this mentor that I talk about, and they actually were self-funded, and they were only 130 employees.

John Meister: They were unbundled, self-funded, and so I think that experience of learning from him and working under him, and also talking with my mother in law and talking with other executives really I think it allowed me to see the creativity that's there and the opportunity that's there that is achievable for those mid market companies.

John Meister: And to your point, I think it was always this misnomer that you have to be a certain size in order to self fund. That just, frankly, we're seeing it every year. Trend continues to grow. Just more and more companies are self-funding and they're getting smaller and smaller by doing that. 

Sasha Yamaguchi: That's amazing that years ago, that size of a group was self-funded.

Sasha Yamaguchi: So I think they were definitely ahead of the game. Do you feel like that's also here in California? You and I are both based in California where fully insured is still a big funding mechanism. Are you also seeing groups that are based here finally look to move self-funded? 

John Meister: Yeah, yeah, I do. I know it. And the Southern California phenomenon is real.

John Meister: I think with the capitation market we have, that was itself a really unique landscape that sets California apart from other states. And here specifically in Southern California, all the different HMO networks and different medical groups that are part of that and how that all works within healthcare does make it really interesting.

John Meister: And a lot of times it can make it challenging for companies where you don't have necessarily transparency of data. You don't have access to claims information. So it can be somewhat scary for groups and for brokers to feel comfortable going in and taking that plunge into self-funding. And yet, with that said, you know, I still have companies that and myself will still look at that when I take over a new group that might be largely capitated.

John Meister: It doesn't necessarily slow us down. I think it's just. adds to the conversation that we want to have around our expectations, perhaps how we look at stop loss amounts, how we look at setting the funding rates themselves. Based on that, it almost is one of those things where you hear the phrase and then you repeat it and people keep repeating and therefore it comes true more than it maybe even is the foundation of truth, right?

John Meister: So I think that here in Southern California, I think there's still going to be a growing appetite and more and more companies are going to continue to do that despite what might look like an obstacle with capitation. 

Sasha Yamaguchi: No, I agree. And you hit on one thing around data. I feel like two things. One, not having the data, but wanting to move self-funded can be scary.

Sasha Yamaguchi: And that's where you and other consultants come in. And then also, data is why you move self-funded, because then eventually you get more of your data and know how the plan is running. I would love for you, from your perspective, to What is that talk track like with your clients of here's why to move self-funded?

Sasha Yamaguchi: You now will have much more control over your plan. What are the two to three things that you talk to them about that will change for the better when they move to self-funded? 

John Meister: Yeah, so I see the world in analogies. And so I usually use a lot of analogies when I'm talking with clients to help understand this.

John Meister: Because I think there is also this This feeling of self-funding is this really confusing rocket science out in the background, right? Like, do we have the bandwidth to take this on? Do I, I always hear this from my HR teams. Do we have enough internal support to do this? I fundamentally will ask my clients just the question of, I think it is a personality type to kind of tackle self-funding.

John Meister: And I always use the analogy of it's when we go on vacation, right? You go and you rent a car and they always ask you, do you want to fill up? There, do you want to fill up, you know, yourself, right? And there's just this quick calculus you have to do with your head to figure out, okay, am I going to use a full tank of gas?

John Meister: Am I going to use a quarter of it? What's the price to fill it up? Oh gosh, that seems high, but you know, and then you're out, you're weighing all these pros and cons really, really quickly. Right? And so a lot of people will just kind of take the easier route, just like, Hey, fill it up. Right. I don't want to deal with that on the day that I'm traveling back home.

John Meister: Just I'll pay for it here. Right. And there is that other personality type that's saying, Hey, I'm only going to use a quarter of it. I don't want to waste money. I can easily find, you know, using an app like gas buddy to find the lowest cost for gasoline that's near the airport. And so some people are that.

John Meister: So I fundamentally will kind of just start the conversations out around like, Hey, what personality type are you? It doesn't mean by the way, that if you're the type that just wants to fill it up there, That self-funding isn't for you. But if you are that, that ladder, the one that's willing to go the extra mile and take a little bit of time to do that, you for sure are going to get frustrated with how the fully insured market Reacts right and how your renewals are going to happen.

John Meister: You're always the client that's going to have a lot of questions. Why am I getting a 15%? Why am I getting a 7. 5%? All these questions you're having. So I usually start with just like baseline, like let's get an understanding of your appetite for how you look at the world and then from there. Based on further conversations, we'll kind of figure out, okay, well, this is how self-funding works.

John Meister: I think that's just another baseline misnomer there is that when I talk with some companies that are unfamiliar with self-funding, really, they think it's just this totally apples and oranges approach, right? Okay, if you self fund now, there's all this other stuff going on. And so I try to just explain to them, hey, built into your premiums right now, we can take a look at what The insurance companies are doing for self-funding.

John Meister: They have stop loss built in. They have their PBMs built in and there's. Layers of admin costs and profit built into each of these that then comprises your premium rate that you're getting charged. And so, just by trying to compare it to what they know right now, to then what it would be to self-funding.

John Meister: That also, I think, is usually a big light bulb moment for a lot of clients just to feel like, Oh, this isn't actually that much different than what I'm doing. It's just, hey, we're going to set the rates for what we say you should budget for. Of course, the claims are going to go up and down based on the month.

John Meister: But hey, this is what you can budget for. It's going to be that set number that you're used to. Conversations like that usually are the kind of the foundation to then kind of go on.

Sasha Yamaguchi: Well, I love your analogy. I think that's perfect. And I think you're right. They think it's this big, scary, no protection. And then once you explain it, they understand that it's a possibility without it being too scary to move self-funded.

John Meister: I know that when I bought my first home, I got out of college. I was up in the Bay Area and I did not know what an HOA was. And so here I am, this young guy trying to buy a house, obviously concerned about money. And I was like, what is this HOA? I'm paying this extra check, right? In addition to my mortgage and insurance and all the other stuff, because like I don't want an HOA, like I can take care of my grass, right?

John Meister: If I need to paint my house, I'll pay for that, right? And so that is another analogy I'll use when just trying to describe to clients, hey, like being fully insured really is you moving into a house and do you want an HOA or not? Because we know when you self fund, I can use the same gardeners that the HOA is using for my neighborhood.

John Meister: I just can pay them directly and frankly, it'll be a less cost. I can ask myself, do I want to use that pool up there? Do I not, right? Like I can pay for how much I want to use from it versus just kind of taking away that bundled approach back to kind of the self-funding people just being maybe unfamiliar with it.

John Meister: I also will then use our personal insurance, right? Like we self fund ourselves. Daily with our insurance for ourselves, for our cars, right? We're not asking State Farm or Geico to insure us for all the gas we're going to need, all the parking we're going to need, right? For them to figure out how much oil changes they think we're going to use in a given year and then pay a huge premium for that just to never.

John Meister: Worry about that, right? We self fund and say, Hey, if I get in an accident, yes, I'll have this deductible, I'll have to pay that and please cover me for just really bad bodily injury or my car gets totaled, right? And then I'm paying, I'm self-funding the gas or I'm self-funding the oil. And so again, I just, I find that people aren't just, they're just, for some reason with companies, we just switch on right now we're in the company mindset.

John Meister: It's just different than what it is individually. 

Sasha Yamaguchi: Yeah, as you're saying all of this, I love how you're explaining it because I know if there's an employer listening, I feel like you've really kind of boiled it down and helped them think about it in real life terms and other scenarios that are very similar to self-funding a health plan.

Sasha Yamaguchi: So I think that's great. There are still, I think, large employers out there that probably should be self-funded and just aren't yet. Do you have any of those? Are you having conversations? What are those conversations like when you have clients that are definitely maybe should be self-funded and haven't made that jump yet?

John Meister: It's a frustrating piece. I mean, just to be totally candid, it's frustrating. I think that's the challenge of being a broker, right, is you are this consultant that comes on and you have to wear so many different hats as a consultant. A lot of times where you have to understand the needs of the business, the needs of that individual person.

John Meister: Right? Like you're just weighing a lot of different things. So I almost feel like yes, if it was a video game, right? And I need to control a player to have the best outcome. There's so many times where I would sell fun or take a look at it. And so it is just this interesting thing when you're weighing the all the different pieces that you know of the company.

John Meister: And you also have to tell yourself, there's so many things you don't know, right? That's not being shared with you by your people teams or your total rewards teams that would influence their decisions. And yet we all know, I mean, again, If you and I opened a company, Sasha, and we ended up hiring 100 employees, the chances are, no matter how small or big we are, we're going to look to self fund as soon as we can.

John Meister: And so I think with those larger employers, I kind of am constantly balancing what I would do and what I'm suggesting and what the data is showing us with also what they're balancing internally and with other items. And then just remaining frankly patient and just letting them know, you know, Hey, this is something that we want to keep looking at, you know, and having those options and doing that, but.

John Meister: I mean, short answer is, it's the fun part of my job. I tell that to a lot of people. It's fun to sit on our side as the consulting to just see how people make decisions. Sometimes it's not even the actual decision they make, although it can be, that's frustrating, but more so just how they're coming to that decision, how they're talking about it, the questions they're asking, the questions maybe they're not asking, and then weighing through that in the conversations.

Sasha Yamaguchi: Yeah, I think you just made a really great point, too, is all of us can say group ABC company, you should be self-funded, but there's so many other things going on within the company and, and the people department, like you mentioned that do factor in, right? I know a lot of us will be working on an RFP and we feel like it's a good fit and people change, right?

Sasha Yamaguchi: HR team members leave. So there's always every year things going on that might also factor in and it's not always, As cut and dry as we think it could be. 

John Meister: I say this too, my sister was on the carrier side and I think for a long time, she's now on the people side, but just hearing from her and her experiences of what it's like to be on your guys side as a vendor, right, as a potential partner coming in.

John Meister: You guys are also in such a tough spot that The level of communication from the broker teams to you, how good that is, how much information they're passing on to you for what's happening and whether that's real or not. And again, that client team passing onto the broker team. So it is just this interesting game of phone, you know, almost in a way where are you getting all the information you guys have to then, of course, from a pricing standpoint, that's usually what you guys have to go off of is, Hey, from a pricing standpoint, this looks like clear cut.

John Meister: Right. So it's a challenge for you. I think you guys don't get enough love and I think enough understanding of how difficult it is for you guys to kind of hear all that and figure out why is this not happening? 

Sasha Yamaguchi: Yeah. And I think to that point, over the years, I've been doing this now almost 25 years, I always like to say, I understand if a broker consulting partner can't share a lot, but at least share enough so that we're building an option.

Sasha Yamaguchi: That is in line with what they're looking for, right? Because if you don't get any information, you don't know what to build out as what we're releasing. So sometimes it kind of hurts the client, right? So it's definitely a balancing act because you can only say so much. The more we have, we can then build the program and the pricing to fit what the client's looking for.

John Meister: That's so true. And honestly, I've heard so many stories over the years now of other firms or other broker partners, frankly, choosing what they're putting on a spreadsheet to show a client. Sometimes that does not get talked about enough around How the data or the options are even being skewed by the service teams, by the broker teams to that end user, that again, it's to their detriment that maybe they wouldn't know.

John Meister: And again, maybe there's different reasons why they're doing that. Some maybe aren't necessarily all bad, but I've heard a number of stories over my career now to know that that does go on and it's head scratching and unfortunate. And again, I think from especially the self-funded side, it happens a lot more.

Sasha Yamaguchi: I mean, it's so important to get that right. I also would say on our side, on the administrator carrier side, we need to make it as clear cut for you as well, so that you know exactly how to spreadsheet that information, right? So, just so many factors and components that go into what you're presenting.

John Meister: Yeah, I think, too, that we just, we don't... Have enough vulnerability on all sides to just say sometimes, Hey, I don't know this. I'm not as comfortable as I would like to be for this. I think for the broker teams and service teams that maybe aren't comfortable with self-funding, I mean, I've been there, right?

John Meister: Where you're inexperienced and you're not sure how this all works. If you're not a personality type that's bold enough to ask questions to kind of appear, you know, if you don't have that growth mindset, I guess, where you're afraid to ask questions, because you want to act like you're smart, or think you want others to think you're smart, that can be so limiting to both yourself and then for your clients.

John Meister: And same thing, I can see that with clients, where clients is they're not comfortable, they don't have the ability to say, Hey, gosh, I don't know enough about this. I still want to know more, because this could be a great option, but hey, heads up, I'm kind of afraid of this, right? There's just never enough conversations like that, in my opinion, that I'm hearing others have that I know kind of, once I got that unlocked with my clients, and I think that's what I've had so many clients that have self-funded where they've told me, hey, I don't get this, I trust you.

John Meister: You tell me what you think is best and I think having that type of a relationship, you know, obviously it has to start with a broker that builds that trust and has shown them the type of integrity they can have. But again, I think it takes that special relationship for all sides to say, gosh, like, tell me more about this.

John Meister: I'm not sure what this means, but I'm interested. So, I think that's a huge and something that's just in the way of us looking at other options.  

Sasha Yamaguchi: I think that is just such a fantastic point because whether it's different network options, administrator options, funding options, I think that's something that I haven't talked to anyone about recently and it's such a great point of just learn more or be open to other things that you may not know well, but find out because at the end of the day, it helps your client.

Sasha Yamaguchi: So, and it hurts them if you're not.

John Meister: I’m the personality type, by the way, that's always filling up my car when I when I run it is The most frustrating piece is when you get these renewals from your fully insured clients, right from the markets. And there's just, you can't tell, like, why am I getting this number or why is it coming down to this number?

John Meister: Why is the other carriers responding with their price points at that? And just, you're caught in this game of marketing. Every couple of years, do I have to change carriers? Is that going to be a huge disruption to my clients to do that with the employees and their networks? I think, frankly, when you look at it from a self-funding standpoint, I mean, in some ways that could be the best thing for workload for employees.

John Meister: You get your network, you're set. Any changes behind the scenes from then on is pretty minimal and so low on the disruption scale for employees. As opposed to what it is being fully insured. So frankly, I think for employers out there, for brokers that aren't familiar or aren't comfortable with this, I mean, really to get out of that game of having to market and doing all that, that's been honestly one of the most fun parts for my clients is just.

John Meister: Not have to worry about that. 

Sasha Yamaguchi: I think that's great. Also, I love that you're using the word fun as we're talking about healthcare. We don't do that enough, do we? 

John Meister: My clients have fun. I think that's the one thing we're going to do is self-funded or fully insured. We're going to figure out how to make this as enjoyable as we can, even though there's times you want to pull your hair out.

Sasha Yamaguchi: Yes, I agree. I always joke, it's not the sexiest industry, but the work we do with our clients, our broker partners makes it so enjoyable. 

John Meister: My boss actually, back to the analogies, I got four kids, so I'm needy. Ten down to three, so I'm in the Disney phase, for sure, which I love Disney movies. And I always think of it in terms of the 101 Dalmatians, where there's that scene at the beginning of the movie where Pongo's trying to find a mate.

John Meister: Right for his master and the girl walking the dog. They all look alike and he's trying to find the right match. I always think that's funny because I think that's so true of us all in business is we all seek out people that look and think like us, right? And your network usually represents and resembles you and your personality types and what you are.

John Meister: So again, I think that is just something that we don't almost think about enough is. Really to take a look in the mirror and see who are you surrounding yourself with in your professional life? Are you having fun? Are you not right? Do you have people that you respect and trust? A lot of times I for sure think it's true of brokers and clients.

John Meister: You know, your clients really represent you so well in terms of their creativity, their openness, maybe their closeness. All of that is, I think, such a reflection. And they're in the same thing with you, Sasha, with vendor partners. You know, the world's so big, there's so many people out there competing. With everything that we do.

John Meister: And so it is a fun and interesting thing to really take a step back and think about is who are you surrounding yourself with? What does that look like? It should be fun and it can be fun and it can be really creative. And, and I think it's just a matter of you being intentional and being open or sometimes close to the wrong people, by the way, coming in and working with you.

Sasha Yamaguchi: I'm so glad you said that. I would love to touch on for a minute member experience because I feel like other than funding and moving to self-funded, another big priority is just overall member experience, right? So we all talk about it all the time, every year. But when you're talking to your clients or building the program, what do you feel like These are the key components to having an actual great member experience for your clients.

Sasha Yamaguchi: And also, have you put anything in place that's worked really well? 

John Meister: Well, I mean, I'll just do this as a plug for you because this is real. I actually had Collective Health at a previous firm as an employee. And so, as the... Broker of my family and the one that was in charge of always tracking things down or asking questions for the family I was finding myself having to call Collective Health at various times throughout the year And so my member experience was so great.

John Meister: I mean the fact that just you get a pickup right away I mean just cannot be said enough right in this day that we live in with Automated prompts immediately. You have to shift through four different options to figure out where can I just get to what I need to talk about real quick, right? To have that experience where someone just picks up the phone right away and can help you and get you delivered.

John Meister: I mean, that has just gone the way of the buffalo, unfortunately. Yet not so with my experience with Collective Health, but I think there's other vendors too that have taken that approach. It obviously costs more. Right? And that's just the thing we're not talking enough about, of just how this works. It obviously takes a lot of money by Collective Health to invest in the staff to take those phone calls.

John Meister: I know you guys are famous for hiring super smart Stanford undergrads and grads to take those positions to do that. But The experience that you get when you actually talk with someone live quickly gets your answer. I mean, that, those types of experiences really just go so much. I think at the end of the day, back to just like overall experience, so many people don't understand health insurance.

John Meister: And even us in the industry, when we're faced with our own situations of I still get stumped sometimes. You're like, no, I know how this works and this is wrong, right? I have to, I have to wade through the quagmire myself. And so, That's us as professionals in the industry, let alone someone that has no idea how this works.

John Meister: And so, I just think there's always that baseline fear of, God, am I being taken advantage of? Like, is this right? Is this wrong? Honestly, like, the whole reason I even became a broker was we had our first baby. I was being, I was on this high definition health plan. I had no idea how it worked, right? I called my broker, he never answered me, didn't get back for like two weeks.

John Meister: I ended up using my mother in law's broker, who became my mentor, by the way. But I just remember that feeling of, it was so stressful. I just wanted to be told, what do I owe? Like, I'll pay it and wound up, I was being charged too much. But I just wanted to know that. And I think that's the experience. I think that so many people come in and just like, hey, just Someone help me out.

John Meister: And that's why I love being a broker, right? You get to be the advocate for the end user, right? Because there is times where you're being taken advantage of, right? There's times that your ignorance is being played upon. And so I think back to this member experience and overall experience is just having those advocates, having someone there to say, Hey, this is how it's doing, right?

John Meister: Taking the time to do that. 

Sasha Yamaguchi: I also feel, I would love your opinion on this, I was just talking to someone this morning about if you can create that good experience, that great interaction, whether it's Collective Health or whoever, and that member is then probably going to engage more than ever. In care navigation or just anything to do with their plan and the things that are available to them.

Sasha Yamaguchi: I feel like if they can have that great interaction to start, they're going to trust more and they're going to realize, Oh, they're actually here to help me. And I feel like that could make a huge difference down the road for the population. 

John Meister: And fair or unfair, I mean, it is so funny, right? Like having that interaction that I had with Collective Health when I was an employee, you can't help but look at your company and be like, Oh, wow, like what a great company.

John Meister: I have these great benefits. We have this great service, right? Like it does come up to the company back to that ROI. And then we know that the reverse is true too, right? If you are confused and you don't have a good experience, you can't help but think negatively of your own company for like, why do we have these benefits?

John Meister: Why do we have this? vendor that's doing such a poor job, I think companies do a good job when they do really care about that experience, even if it sometimes does hit the bottom line a little bit in a negative way, in terms of, of course, there could be lower cost savings going with other options that wouldn't have as high of a member experience.

John Meister: And yet, again, we know now with when employees leave, Just the costs that now are, this is the data set, this has to be factored into what vendors were choosing for that. 

Sasha Yamaguchi: So last kind of question that, that I'm thinking as you're answering is, I feel like point solutions and program partners out there are becoming a big part of member experience.

Sasha Yamaguchi: Are you doing a lot with the different point solutions in our industry and what are you seeing your clients put in and do you feel like it's really making a big difference in their benefits program? 

John Meister: It's such a nuanced topic. I feel like every conference I go to with HR, it's just something we're talking about.

John Meister: It's just the fatigue that I think all sides have with point solutions. We see it in every kind of sub category of benefits where there's a new popularity rise. You know, in that certain section and then all of a sudden all the point solutions come in to make money to grow their businesses. And yet we now are just in this world of everyone just seems to be sinking and there's just such a fatigue around who do I go with?

John Meister: What's the ROI? I mean, in my opinion, the trends that we're starting to see now is just a lot more of consolidation. A lot more of, I think, kind of just slowing down and having the right partners, I think also not trying to just throw so many different solutions at one problem, but being more Thoughtful.

John Meister: I think sometimes being patient too, by the way, back to the data, right? Like really allowing the data to come through over a little bit longer of a period and not maybe being so knee jerk reaction to say, okay, gosh, we have these high cost claimants. Like what point solution can we get in right now?

John Meister: What's the ROI? Frankly, I don't have the answer. I think we're still Figuring out what to do about that because I think there has been such an inundation of point solutions now that I think a lot of buyers on the HR side and the client side are just kind of fatigued. I mean, I think there's a lot more pressure, frankly, on brokers now.

John Meister: I know we just launched this new initiative for us. It's called Newfrontiers, but it's basically just us going out to all the markets, going out to all the point solutions, investigating who are the best in certain size categories. Because that's always a consideration is how big the client is, what vendor does the best at that.

John Meister: Size, what's the cost, how can you negotiate, and then trying to just do a lot of the heavy lifting on behalf of our clients before they need it, so that when they do need it, it's just a much better experience for the HR teams to get going on then making a decision that's best for their employees. But with that said, I mean, it just is such an interesting.

John Meister: Dilemma I think we're all in right now. 

Sasha Yamaguchi: I mean, it's exploded that whole part of our industry. There's so many options. I think it's more important than ever that you as consultants come in and help clients. And I love that you said patient because you don't want to just put in a bunch of point solutions.

Sasha Yamaguchi: You're paying for them and they're not the right ones or it doesn't make sense. So it's over time looking at what the data shows and then being able to choose which ones make sense. So. Closing out, I feel like a lot of the things you talked about in the beginning was helpful. The self-funded and what to know as a broker and how to talk to your clients.

Sasha Yamaguchi: I really think about new brokers and consultants coming into the industry. They're new as a broker or even new sales reps on the vendor side. I would love to hear just, you've been doing this for a bit, what's your advice for those? Starting out in our industry and you talked a little bit about your mentor and I think that we need to bring back more Mentors as well But just any advice you would give for anyone listening that's just new into our industry doing whether it's sales or brokering consulting 

John Meister: Yeah, I mean, I think each person has to have the foundation of humility The mentor I speak about who was so pitiful for me.

John Meister: I mean, it wasn't like he was out there right when I got hired being like, you, John, I want to mentor you. I see something in you. You know, it took me making the initiative and me just recognizing, Hey, gosh, who do I want to be like when I'm older? Right? I mean, I think I was just always that personality type.

John Meister: I was a 13 year old. I'd go and ask older people, Hey, how did you invest your money? Or what, you know, what are you doing? What advice can you give? And so I think anyone starting out though, has to have that Ambition, if you will, that hunger for wanting to be better, getting that growth mindset, I think is so huge.

John Meister: I think not being afraid to ask questions. I think also, by the way, I'm like, I always felt so indebted to everyone who would ever help me. I'm an impatient person a lot of times, right? So when someone needs help from me, of course I want to do that. And yet I'm always like, Oh gosh, I have things to do myself.

John Meister: And so. I just was always hyper aware and really grateful and would buy them coffee or just do small things to let them know how valuable they are to you and how much it really does help. And even now, I mean, there's so many people in the past that I try to do a good job of staying in touch with to still say thanks.

John Meister: But I think that's something that just younger generations always are going to need to do it. I know there's always this talk about how millennials are, Gen Z is, it doesn't matter what generation you're in. When you're coming out, someone knows more than you, right? And for you to be humble, to just find out who those people are, ask good questions, be grateful for the help that you get.

John Meister: I think that's just so key to avoid mistakes that maybe they made or that you will make if you don't get that advice. Right? I mean, I think that's just such a good shortcut. And what I've found now, and I've talked to so many mentors and you know, as I've mentored people, I mean, you feel so good to help others when you do, right?

John Meister: Like you actually do feel good. And there's people that when you look at people that are asking for help, for them to hear you take your advice, And then them succeed, right? I'm going to coach all my kids sports, right? It's such a fun part about coaching. You see it in action when they take your advice and then the good thing happens.

John Meister: So I think that's just such a big thing for younger professionals to come out and do that and really kind of model people that are already successful. Find out what you can avoid that maybe they didn't and then what you can hack onto that they did really well.  

Sasha Yamaguchi: I also feel like two things. One, us as mentors, I also feel like sometimes I can learn something from the person I'm developing or mentoring.

Sasha Yamaguchi: Maybe they have a different view that I've never thought of. I always try to say that it goes two ways because I think we can all learn from each other. And then I also, and kind of our closing point here, I feel like even in this remote world, especially in our industry, connecting in person is super important.

Sasha Yamaguchi: And you get to know somebody. You get to make that connection. I just feel like it's really important that we get back to as much interaction in person as possible, especially as you're starting your career. 

John Meister: I agree. I mean, people always laugh. I'm not a extrovert. People always think I am. I'm a, I always say I'm a high functioning introvert and yet I love to be social.

John Meister: Right? Like I love good quality conversations and I 100 percent agree. I mean, I think back to what you're saying earlier about just having fun. I mean, we have one life to live, right? We've chosen this industry that we're in and why not make it the best? To me, that is about the relationships you form. The colleagues I've had now for a number of years that have been with me at different firms.

John Meister: I mean, that's so invaluable to have. And I agree. I mean, I just think what you say yes to and what you say no to, obviously you have to be really wise, you know, and what you're saying yes to. But I agree, I mean, that's back to the fun, nothing makes it more rewarding than going out and building relationships that you're going to have for a number of years in this industry.

John Meister: Again, what we keep talking about, you have to trust the people in your circles, right? The trust, the advice, the data, the words they're telling you, how that all works. I mean, there's so much of that's built on the foundation of getting to know one another, trusting them, seeing how you think and operate, all that, so I agree.

Sasha Yamaguchi: I love that. Well, thank you so much for being here today. I feel like, again, anyone listening that's considering self-funded, you hit on so many great points and a little bit of those also new to our industry. I think they'll learn a lot from our talk today, but let everybody know where they can find you.

Sasha Yamaguchi: LinkedIn. Share a little bit about yourself.

John Meister: I am not on any social media platform myself, aside from LinkedIn. Here I'm at Newfront and LinkedIn and always love talking. I think, again, the more people I network. with and get a chance to have coffees with and lunches with. I'm with you. I'm a curious person.

John Meister: So I love to see what other people are doing, what they're doing well. 

Sasha Yamaguchi: Thank you so much for today and I'm sure we'll have a follow up conversation as well. So this was great, John. Thank you. Great. 

John Meister: Great talking with you, Sasha. 

Producer: This podcast is brought to you by Collective Health, a health benefits solution that guides employees toward healthier lives and companies toward healthier bottom lines.

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