2021 Broker of the Year Finalist: Mike Hill
The 2021 Broker of the Year will be announced at the BenefitsPRO Broker Expo, August 16-18 in San Diego. The winner will be featured in more detail in our September issue.
Michael Hill grew up with a passion for sailing. His love of the water was so strong that he attempted to become a professional and competitive sailor in his twenties.
Lucky for his clients, he just wasn’t good enough to go pro. But one of his connections with sailing drew him into the insurance industry. And that turned out to be exactly where it belonged.
Hill, a 2021 BenefitsPRO Broker of the Year finalist, is a business insurance consultant for business owners at Coldbrook Insurance Group LLC, where he operates his own business. It’s a little unusual arrangement, but it worked well for the consultant from Holland, Michigan.
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“Each person builds their own practice under the umbrella of Coldbrook,” he says. “We have the strength of Coldbrook and the flexibility of an entrepreneur. “
Hill followed a roundabout route before arriving at Coldbrook. The journey began when he recognized that competitive sailing would not be his profession. At close range, a sailing colleague offered him a job with his insurance agency. He accepted the job and spent over fifteen years doing “traditional insurance”.
In 2017, after trying a few different versions of the same old, same old, he had a wake-up call. “I was about to turn 40 and wondered if I wanted to do this for the next half of my career? “
What he liked was working with entrepreneurs, with clients who wanted something more. What he didn’t like was not being able to offer them that extra something.
“I read every article on innovative insurance plans that I could find. And everyone that was referenced in an article, I tracked them down and found out what they knew.
“Business leaders hired me as a trusted advisor, but the options I had for them were no different from anyone else’s. And the trend of higher cost for less coverage has never stopped. But Hill knew that by taking advantage of the self-funding and flexibility it offered, there was a better way. He just had to figure out how to present it to employers.
“So I started talking to everyone I could. I joined the Next Generation Mastermind network. I read every article on innovative insurance plans that I could find. that were referenced in an article, I tracked them down and found out what they knew.
In 2017, he incorporated what he had learned and was ready to chart a new course. He was so excited that he wrote a book, “Not Rocket Surgery”, to share with the world the secret to reinventing employer health plans. He met Jim Watson of Coldbrook, joined the firm and began to seek clients who shared his vision.
One of those clients is Jim Eickhoff, CEO of Creative Dining Services, a multi-state hotel management company with more than 2,000 employees. Just as Hill was discovering a strategy he was passionate about, Eickhoff was looking for a better plan for his employees. Eickhoff was frustrated. Each year, two weeks before the start of the “new” plan, his broker appeared with the proposal. It was still 15-20% higher than the previous plan and it was always described to him as “a good plan!”
Eickhoff did not understand most of the elements of the plan; he didn’t understand why it was always so much more expensive, or why there weren’t any real alternatives.
But he knew that if he did his research he would get answers. His research ultimately led him to Mike Hill.
Together, the two came up with a personalized plan for Creative Dining.
“I wanted something personalized for us. Mike said, “Have you considered a self-insurance plan? I never even thought it was possible for a company like ours! said Eickhoff.
They created a model that gave plan members two choices: a health savings account option or a traditional PPO; However, unlike traditional two-tier plans, both have three tiers. They added a “guided choice” level of benefits on both plans that offered plan members lower or free fees if they chose to receive medical care from a list of top-rated practitioners and hospitals on the board. the database objective and regardless of the state of the network.
Eickhoff also agreed with Hill that a C-level executive should be intimately involved in defining the plan’s management strategy. Their CFO had never been involved in the discussions before; it was strictly an HR field. Hill suggested adding the CFO to the process, adding that in the future, the plan’s expenses would be treated like any other item in the budget.
It’s that kind of advice – asking questions, providing answers – that led to the planning revolution at Creative Dining. The relationship immediately translated into considerable savings, which have grown year on year. Now the parties have an agreement in which Hill is compensated if certain measurements are provided.
“I said to Mike, ‘We also want to reward your team because you’ve saved us a lot of money. If you’re willing to share some risk, we’ll make sure you get rewarded if we continue to provide great service, happy employees, and keep reducing our prevention costs. ‘ And I can guarantee you that a traditional broker would not go for this kind of arrangement, ”says Eickhoff.
What about those annual plan increases? Last year it was 6%. This year: Zero. Creative Dining reinvested a portion of these savings into a targeted one-on-one diabetes management program with Wellspark Health that produced very impactful results for plan members.
“Jim took a leap of faith,” says Hill. “Employees could choose to remain disengaged and their coverage would remain the same. But if you’re willing to take objective advice, that’s 100% coverage, no deductible with the PPO, and the lowest possible deductible on the HSA.
The result completely justified Eickhoff’s leap of faith. Not only did the better quality care benefit all plan members, it also lowered costs so plan members pay less for their benefits.
“Working with Mike has made this healthcare relationship more intimate. Mike is not a salesperson; it’s part of the Creative Dining family, ”says Eickhoff.
It’s not all insurance, all the time, for Mike Hill. He sits on four boards, including his local hospital board and that of LifeCircles PACE, a health plan for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries that takes a holistic approach to managing member health.
Oh, by the way, Hill is still sailing competitively. This summer, he competed in his 26th Chicago-Mackinac race, where he faced some of the best sailors in the Great Lakes region. But he realizes that although sailing offers some type of challenge, he gets his greatest satisfaction from keeping the employees healthy and happy, and the employer’s costs in check.