Barry Murphy

Barry Murphy

Co-Awardee Executive Healthcare Leader Healthcare Leader of the Year

What is your current position?

Murphy: Same as I always have been. I’m a self-employed benefits consultant and advisor. It’s important to point out that historically, health insurance has been provided by people known as brokers. Their job is to broker an agreement between a service provider and a customer. We like to say they call them brokers, because you're "broker" after they get done with you. Carl Schuessler and I stepped away from performing the functions of a broker and moved into an advisory role about 10 years ago. We do not represent any service provider but are hired on a fee basis to give advice to our clients. We are not beholden to any of the major players in the insurance industry.

What is your favorite part about your job?

Murphy: We deal with high level of clients. My current client has a 60 million dollar budget for their health spending. I think my favorite part is being able to influence decisions at this high level and having the ability to utilize persuasive skills to resolve issues, calm people down, and get problems resolved.

What is your least favorite part of the job?

Murphy: Occasionally clients will ask you for advice and then will routinely ignore your input. I have to remind myself that it is their health plan not mine, and that they have the right to their own opinion and the right to make mistakes. I don’t think there are any mistakes that can be made that I wouldn’t be able to fix on the back end.

What are some of the most common pieces of advice you give that people tend to ignore?

Murphy: My approach in problem resolution with a claim has never been to be forceful or belligerent, but rather to try to coax and seek cooperation to solve problems. Sometimes clients want to be a little heavy handed. They think they are the be all end all and don’t realize everyone has their own life, and that it is easier to get someone to help you than it is to get them to comply with something.

Has there been one specific moment in your career that has shaped your idea of healthcare?

Murphy: I am not sure you could pin it down to a specific moment. It has really been more of an evolution, a journey of discovery. As you dig deeper into the healthcare industry, you realize how dysfunctional it is. I have a saying: people say that the health care system is broken, but the fact of the matter is it’s built that way on purpose. It is a combination of different parties each seeking their own highest return. Without a cohesive core, everybody has been allowed to put their snout in the trough. This drives up cost and creates inappropriate synergies between parties.

I think it is important to say that doctors are not the bad guys. They are scientists. However, they have been forced by the insurance industry to engage in activities to cover their overhead. In the beginning insurance was intended as a risk mitigation tool. It protected against the infrequent, unforeseen, financially catastrophic event. Now, it has become pre-paid healthcare. It gives insurance companies the ability to push their weight around and tell doctors how to practice and hospitals what they can and cat do.

It’s the middleman that is causing the problem. What Schuessler and I facilitate is a direct communication relationship between our clients and service providers. It always works for the betterment of everyone involved.

What has been the most significant moment or event in your career that affirmed you were on the right path?

Murphy: In the early 2000s I was the head of an insurance company based health firm that I had created in 1983. I had discovered some insurance company algorithms that would have allowed us to save our clients about 20% on insurance by lowering their out of pocket costs. I went to the partners and they said if we did that, it would cost us a lot of money because lower premiums meant lower income. A light bulb went off in my head that this system was corrupt. Within 6 months I left and started my own concierge practice. I wished I had done it 20 years earlier. I took a mathematical financial look at the construction of insurance in a way not many people ever looked at it before. This was the driving force in 2005-2014 when Schuessler and I went on a broader version of discovery and found all of the inefficiencies and improprieties that were going on in the healthcare delivery system.

What were some of those inefficiencies?

Murphy: Hospitals have to play financial games to protect their bottom lines, and in the process, the insurance companies come in and take advantage of it. The typical employer, to make a healthcare plan, hires Blue Cross Blue Shield who makes all the decisions and rules, and at the end of the year comes back and says they need 12% more. Our clients have to be willing to pay closer attention. I can't do anything that a company’s current broker can’t, but if you want to actively manage your costs, that is where Mitigate Partners can help. We are an independent collaboration of like-minded entrepreneurs. I run my own shop. If I find a way to save money, I don’t need anyone to tell me it is okay to do it.

If you could change one thing about the US healthcare system what would it be?

Murphy: I think at the heat of it has to be bringing healthcare back to the local level and making it between purchasers and providers of services. We need to regulate the insurance companies back to assuming the risk for infrequent, unpredictable, unbudgetable, financially catastrophic events.

How do you feel about the current state of the Covid-19 pandemic and how do you feel leaders in both health care and government have handled it?

Murphy: That’s a loaded question. I don’t think the government at the federal level has done particularly good job. I see both sides with masks and vaccines. I find it interesting we have all been vaccinated for polio and measles but all of a sudden this vaccine is seen as a bad thing. I am double vaccinated with the booster and I have had COVID twice. I don’t think the vaccine should have been sold as a way to prevent the virus but rather to mitigate the impact of it.

I also think anytime you throw money at something you pervert peoples' better instincts. I think the doctors and hospitals who are on the front lines are heroes. I can't say the same thing for hospital administrators, and certainly not the government. Unfortunately, they are the ones that typically direct the efforts of the people on the front lines.

What is your definition of a leader?

Murphy: I think a leader is someone who has a wealth of experience and has an approach that seeks cooperation and synergy as opposed to being didactic and heavy handed. A servant leader.

Anything else?

Murphy: I am honored to have been picked for something like this and appreciative of Physician Outlook and what you are trying to do. *Responses edited for length and clarity.

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