Carl C. Schuessler, Jr.
Co-Awardee Executive Healthcare Leader Healthcare Leader of the Year
What is your current position and how long have you worked there?
Schuessler: I am the Co-Founder and Managing Principal of Mitigate Partners. I co-founded the company with Barry Murphy.
How does it feel winning the award together?
Schuessler: It’s an honor because he mentored me out of college and the joke was the last 5-10 years I mentored him. We came up with the ideas to start Mitigate Partners. Barry has always been great counsel throughout my career.
What is your favorite part about your job?
Schuessler: I enjoy making difference for employers with our proprietary, FairCo$t Health Plan seamlessly integrated with a High-Performance Healthcare Solutions platform that provides best-in-class benefits at substantially lower costs while improving clinical and financial outcomes for the health plans and their members. My ultimate goal is to try to change this healthcare system to the way it ought to be - a patient-centric system.
What is your least favorite part of what you do?
Schuessler: Dealing with cartel. That’s generally Blue Cross, United, Sigma, and Eccma. We don’t necessarily deal with them but we call on employers that do and we have to extrapolate data from them which is always a pain. That is always the biggest frustration.
Has there been a specific moment in your career that has shaped your idea of healthcare?
Schuessler: I would say growing up the son of a physician. I got to see what medicine was about in its good ole days. I got to see more of that and watch it change right about the time I went to college. When HMOs and PPOs made their way to Georgia, my dad was not going to participate in any those networks. This meant insurance plans would not cover his treatments. It was in the late 80’s, and I will never forget. Patients had been seeing him for 20 years told him they would not be able to go see him anymore because he was not in their network. My doctor my choice was gone. Back then, it was healthcare. Today it is health insurance. There is a difference.
What has been the most significant moment in your career or a moment that affirmed to you that you were on the right path?
Schuessler: Probably when I got hurt coaching my son’s middle school baseball team back in February of 2013. I had an epiphany in 2013 while reading the Time Magazine article, America’s Bitter Pill by Steven Brill (at printing, the longest article ever published in Time Magazine). It was showing what was happening with hospitals and insurance companies and prices. Things like how hospitals pay $2 for a bag of saline but charge $200. I always thought something was wrong. I was so frustrated with the healthcare system and how outlandish it was and frustrated that within the traditional industry framework I couldn’t make a difference for my clients. FairCo$t started 7 years ago, and we have gotten tremendous results from a number of clients. I knew at that point that it was worth it.
If there is one thing you could change about the US healthcare system, what would it be?
Schuessler: Remove the misaligned incentives. Eliminate the middlemen. That’s the only way you could really fix it. Getting everything in 100% alignment. Many say our health delivery system is broken. We say it is not broken…it has evolved this way on purpose, and all for the benefit of those that feed from the trough fraught with embedded conflicts of interest and misaligned incentives. Healthcare is local, not national, or regional. We relocalize care and get the money off Wall Street and put it back on Main Street.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the US healthcare system and how leaders in both healthcare and government have handled it?
Schuessler:I think it is a political hot potato right now in my opinion and it shouldn’t be. This is a non-partisan issue. It’s the wild west out there. It has become a game similar to the movie, The Big Short - hospitals are often charging artificially inflated prices for tests and making money, insurance companies have made more money than ever—billions off this, and PBM’s profiting—and the list goes on. Here we go again with misaligned incentives, everyone is getting rich off the backs of the healthcare workers while bankrupting middle class America. My daughter is a nurse who started her career in August. You couldn’t have picked a worse time to begin your nursing career. Many hospitals are making a lot of money and not providing enough support/resources to their frontline healthcare clinicians which is resulting in burnout and loss of workforce. As far as leadership in the country, I think they have done a horrible job. The biggest problem right now, peoples' mental states. Peoples' brains are fried. The mental health in this country is off the chain, and there are only so few people available to help. They have ruined peoples' lives with making this so political.
What is your definition of a leader?
Schuessler: Someone that is a servant leader who wouldn’t ask anything of people that they wouldn’t do themselves. They must always be open to advice including criticism. Learn from everyone, smart people learn from their mistakes; wise people learn from the mistakes of others. Someone who always pays it forward and stays convicted, committed, and never gives up. They should be passionate in their purpose always remembering to never let failure be your judge, let it be your teacher.
Schuessler: This article is about a healthcare leader, I am honored, but there is a team of Mitigate Partners walking with me who deserve the credit. Most importantly, my family is huge part of this. I want to thank my wife and my children for their unwavering support. That’s what you do all this for. My goal is to change healthcare and leave it better than where it was when I started. It’s all done for your family. Pretty much everything I do isn’t about me, but helping the Mitigate Partners to grow, learn and eventually to unclip their wings so they can fly. *Answers edited for length and clarity*