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Strongside Solutions, TML host webinar on reducing insurance, healthcare costs


Amid rising costs, many municipalities are finding it difficult to navigate the complexities of the insurance and healthcare markets.  

Strongside Solutions Insurance Brokerage PLUS is a privately-held, Georgia-based healthcare, insurance broker consulting, and management company with more than 20 years of expertise, operating in 23 states across the country. Wendell Strickland, CEO of Strongside, said the company was founded in 2004 to find solutions to rising healthcare, prescription, and insurance costs. Strongside sees itself as a disruptor in the healthcare industry, working to put the “care” back into healthcare and related services. 

Despite the rapid way the healthcare industry and how people utilize healthcare has changed, much of what is done to connect employees and employers to healthcare plans has not. When he was asked to build brokerage services for two large national companies and one local company in Georgia, Strickland was able to apply a fresh approach. 

“In 2004, the insurance broker’s job was really to shop for insurance through 20 different carriers, and somebody would come in with a lower cost. That is how brokers used to control costs,” he said. “As insurance companies consolidated, there were less and less choices and the prices started going up. Strongside Solutions' genesis was to find why these insurance costs are going up and what you can do to both diminish and even reverse that. From 2000 through 2010, the solutions were wellness centers and building on-site clinics to shift doctor’s visits, but that doesn’t get at the real root of the problem.” 

Strickland said many people he has worked with feel the insurance system is broken because it works for insurance companies but not for the employers or employees who utilize them.  

“As long as employers and brokers continue to use the national carriers – and I mean all aspects of those national carriers like the administration, access to the network, the pharmacy solutions they provide, and how they package those solutions – you can’t get at the true drivers of the cost of healthcare,” he said. “About 2% of employees at any given time are spending 50-60% of the total claims expense. We realized there was a small population, but it was having a huge negative impact. We started looking at Strongside Solutions as a testing lab to optimize and reduce the cost of healthcare. Most people believe when you reduce costs you also reduce services, access, and care. That is not our model. You can still use the full networks, but you just can’t let them have control of everything.” 

The two biggest problems municipalities and companies face when it comes to insurance are high-cost medical claims and high-cost pharmacy claims. The company evolved to better address these issues along with providing the services of an insurance brokerage.  

 Strickland said many of these high-cost medical claims are “lifestyle-changing, financially catastrophic” events to an employee, their spouse, or children. Strongside works to find solutions that will offset costs to the patient and the municipality that employs them. 

“Our clients get to say when you are at your worst, your sickest, your most worried state for you, your spouse, or your children, we can step up with programs and solutions that help both the families access healthcare and financial resources,” he said. “Also, since those claims are paid for outside the plan, my clients don’t bear the expense of those plans.” 

The company’s consortium has saved more than $1 billion in prescription spending by providing brand-name maintenance medication and specialty medications at zero cost to employees, which can also bring down the cost of plans 52-73% for employers. Strickland said his clients have seen 40% of employees require no co-pays for medicines and top 2% of high-cost claimants are no longer financially burdening the employer or the plan.  

Since all cities have their own needs and challenges, Strickland said the company sits down with officials to get to know their culture, staff, strengths, weaknesses, and what services they need. Only after that do they start seeking solutions, which are very customizable. 

“It might be we start off with a small portion of something to fix a problem,” Strickland said. “We don’t have to do everything for everybody, but the more we can do, the more effective we are. We can work in phases, and we can do a complete takeover. Usually, when we sit down with people it’s really evident to them and to us what we can do. This is why we have been so successful with private employers and municipalities; that’s what makes us different.” 

In a climate where benefits like healthcare are largely determining what companies or municipalities can retain employees in the face or workforce shortages, Strickland said the performance of benefits and having the best health plan can help both recruit and retain employees. To do that, municipalities need someone in their corner who knows what questions to ask, how the insurance and health plan industry works, and how to navigate the industry to their advantage. 

“The winners in this market are the buyers who are educated,” Strickland said. “Most consumers don’t understand how different the choices they have available are. This industry – the insurance carriers and by and large the brokerage community that delivered healthcare resources to cities and counties – hasn't changed in 40 years. We are disruptive because we overlay and do the broker function, but we are also creating better ways for employers and their employees to have access to better healthcare.”  

To learn more about how the health insurance industry works and why Strongside’s unique approach delivers real savings, register for the joint TML and Strongside webinar at 11 a.m. (EST)/10 a.m. (CST) on Thursday, June 27.