Rusty Levy, a 45+-year employee benefits veteran, joined our firm as a partner in April. (Read our announcement.) We asked Rusty to share his perspectives on working in the industry, the state of health care today, and his philosophy for working with clients. Here’s what he had to say.
benefitsone welcomed Rusty Levy into the firm as a partner in April 2020.
My first role was working for several life insurance companies in and around New Orleans. My dad, who was an attorney, somewhat pushed me into the business. He thought it would be a great career, and he was right.
I started my agency back in 1975 and soon moved into group benefits plans. One of my first clients was my uncle, a dentist. I had a lot of support getting things going which helped me find success early on.
When I look back at the many business experiences I’ve had and the clients I worked with, a few things stand out.
Affordable Care Act, Great but Not Perfect
In the 1960s and ’70s, many businesses fully funded their company benefits with no deductibles and 100% coverage. Over time, those generous benefits started to go away.
Many, many years later, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) came on the scene, and I thought it was a great thing. Sure, the bill has some faults — but anyone can get coverage. And it should be that way! We’re the only developed company that doesn’t have universal health care. The ACA revolutionized our industry by not requiring people to answer health-related questions and no pre-existing condition limitations. But more needs to be done.
Today, employees’ claims are reviewed by the insurance companies’ bean counters. There’s a lot of oversight there. Cost is a big factor, too. The only way employers can save money is to push more of the cost on to employees who may end up getting less coverage. It seems like those who are affected the worse, by not being able to afford good insurance, are the ones that get sick — and that’s a shame.
I encourage my clients to pay everything they can to ease their employees’ financial burdens.
Smaller Plans and a Focus on New Orleans
Back when I was a lot younger and didn’t mind the travel, I had clients all over the south and worked with company plans of all sizes. Over time, I said goodbye to the larger plans and the out-of-state clients I serviced. Everyone I work with today is located in the New Orleans area, and the plan sizes are smaller at 100 employees or fewer.
Most companies want to do right for their employees when it comes to offering insurance benefits. I’m a tireless champion for the little guy, so I encourage my clients to pay everything they can to ease their employees’ financial burdens. I’ve been known to tell employers that if they think that an additional $25 per month, per employee will drive them into bankruptcy — well, then they have bigger issues to work out.
The Buck Stops With Me
I live my life by the Golden Rule. If an employee benefit isn’t good enough for me, I certainly won’t recommend it to a client. For example, I’m not a fan of limited benefit policies. They may sound great. But when coverage is restricted and room and board are limited, I steer clear of that type of policy. I wouldn’t want it, so why would an employee? If a company insists on offering a plan like this, I won’t be a part of it.
Years ago, my industry peers would set aside money to take clients to ballgames and fancy lunches. I took a different approach. If an employee had an issue with an insurance bill, I would offer to pay down the debt for them. Perks are enjoyed short-term but helping someone with a steep bill kept me connected to who I serve.
Clients know that I care and that strong, long-term relationships are important to me and that I’ll do everything I can to show I care. I’ve worked with the Arts Council of New Orleans for 40 years. That says something, I think.
People also know that the buck stops with me. If I make a mistake, I don’t make an excuse. I own it, apologize and get the error corrected. And whenever I can help someone out, such as calling in a favor to get a hospital to reduce a charge, I’ll do that.
We spend too much money treating illnesses and not enough on preventative care.
What We Can’t Fix is Frustrating
Benefits cost rise every year. There’s price-gouging by hospitals and drug companies. There are some unethical benefits providers and agents who use different approaches that don’t sit well with me.
The number one reason people file for bankruptcy is because of medical bills. Our federal government needs to put its citizens first. We need a nationally coordinated, not state by state, health system. We spend too much money treating illnesses and not enough on preventative care. In the U.S., our average life expectancy lags behind other developed nations. (We’re in 26th place out of 35, according to the OECD.) It’s frustrating.
Working with benefitsone
It’s been almost six months since I’ve been part of benefitsone. It’s been great working with the team. Amy Indest and Nicole Williams make things easy for me in their role as benefit account managers. (Those two already have me spoiled.) Jack Duvernay and I share the same view on how to treat people, so we’re a good match.
I look forward to what the future holds here at benefitsone and in the work I continue to do for my clients. This has been a great career, and I hope my clients know how much they mean to me.