Jeff Kanter is the co-founder of My Academy of Health Excellence. He is a Syracuse University graduate and has spent the last 25 years assisting individuals and businesses in navigating the world of health freedom and insurance. A serial entrepreneur, Jeff saw an opportunity to put his ideas into action with the inception of the Affordable Care Act and co-founded My Academy of Health Excellence. At its core, the academy’s mission is to allow doctors and patients to connect directly and take back control of the health world from 3rd-party interference.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Jeff for the Sage Advice podcast. You can listen here or read an edited version of the interview below.
How did you start your business?
I’ve been a serial entrepreneur and I’m involved in a lot of different types of organizations through the years. I gravitated into the healthcare world after a time and was largely involved in insurance and various components of that. Then that kind of was falling a little bit into the background and as it became more and more difficult and pricey and a lot of customer dissatisfaction. So I was engaged in some other activities within the insurance industry, but then the Affordable Care Act came along and it was kind of a bit of a chuckle at first. I go, “This thing could be a mess.” But as it turns out, there was a lot of opportunities there. Like any entrepreneur, you always can find something to grab onto in chaos. So we really took advantage of it.
Then we stumbled into the idea of health sharing or medical cost sharing and was able to kind of capitalize on that a little bit and begin to incorporate that into a more comprehensive approach. Because the reality of most people’s health life is, or even like as an analogy with your house. If you have homeowners insurance, that hardly suffices. You need to have landscaping and painting and roofing, so there’s a lot more you need to be engaged in. So, building a comprehensive approach to it, allowed us to create this program capitalizing on the opportunity that was the Affordable Care Act. It was just an organic process.
Why do you do what you do, Jeff?
Well, the reason I got into the industry, in general, was to be able to help people. It’s always well to do something and make some money when you’re doing it, but it’s nice to be able to help somebody and make some money in that process.
Health is a pretty important component. Between your health and your wealth, those are about the two most important things and then income, family and everything else invariably, but without your health, you’re not going to be much good to most people. So it’s an important part.
You need to be proactive about it. What I found was problematic or distressing was that the health world was more set up to wait for you having a problem and then dealing with it after the fact instead of trying to be more preventative. So by allowing this turmoil to create a plan that’s more oriented towards health and then falling back into something covering you in case something major happened, it made a lot more sense from a practical and user standpoint. So, we definitely capitalized on that.
What are some of the challenges that you see that face small businesses and entrepreneurs today when it comes to looking out for their healthcare?
Well, unfortunately for most businesses, it’s a huge distraction from whatever their core business is. Instead of focusing on manufacturing their widget and marketing that, they spend a fair amount of time lamenting over what they’re going to do with their health plan. Then sadly, it’s exacerbated by the fact that it’s changing in price all the time. So if I take a lease, I have a set payment. If I have an electric bill for my business, it tends to be static from year to year. But this is the kind of thing that’s a moving target. As a consequence, it’s kind of hard to build a business plan or buy equipment or hire additional people, when I’m forever having to kind of keep the money set aside on a contingency plan for next year’s costs.
Then I’m maybe getting some dissension in the ranks. So everyone seems to like working at my place of business but they hate the health plan that I selected and I really just picked the one I could find that was the best pricing. But, of course, someone’s going to like it and someone’s going to dislike it. Then after they get acclimated to that one and then we suddenly change after a couple of years. You know I’m having problems at work and with my business and it has nothing to do with the product or anything that we do. It’s the side thing that really has nothing to do with my business that’s mucking up my whole operation in its own way in a couple levels. So that is a huge challenge, Ed.
How does My Academy of Health Excellence help solve that problem? Is it similar to the direct primary care model or is it an extension of that?
It’s kind of a little of an extension of that maybe, but it’s the idea of having more of a set cost in mind where you’re not suffering from all of these vagaries of pricing. So really it kind of comes down to the model, the medical cost sharing has a lot more stability and less price fluctuation than you’ll encounter in the typical insurance model. So that becomes kind of the core of why the pricing can stay stable. But then on top of that, you want to make sure that people are good shoppers. I mean the advantage of the free market, when it’s working like it’s supposed to be, is that I know on my way to work, all the gas stations that I know the one that’s always the lowest priced. So all the time I had trips or whatever accordingly and I’ll get gas.
Well, the same thing holds true in the medical industry. I could get different prices from an MRI, from several hundred dollars up to a couple thousands of type of situation, and unless you’re sort of taking advantage of what the market has to offer, then you’re not helping be a part of the solution by helping control costs too. So we’ve built that flexibility into what we’re doing and we provide a person to actually do that shopping because the realization is that consumers are busy or don’t know enough or they’re lazy or whatever you want to ascribe to them. But if you provide a helper, so they can try to do the right thing, but they don’t have to make an effort on their part by much to do it, that’s going to be better. So we’ve built that in there as well.
You can listen here for the rest of the podcast with Jeff Kanter.