Protecting a Dream

Artist: Cristy Gupton, Mitigate Partners

Protecting a Dream

The community non-profit hospital is supposed to be the place its citizens can rely on for quality healthcare. But in 2019, Asheville, NC was watching Mission Memorial Hospital be acquired by a for-profit giant—HCA or Hospital Corporation of America. Not many knew what was coming but Liz Button, co-owner of Katie Button Restaurants had an uneasy feeling about it. She knew her employees and the health plan they counted on needed protecting.

Katie had heard about Health Rosetta, and she wanted to learn more. That journey led her to a new employee benefits advisor, Cristy Gupton.  Cristy and Katie collaborated on improvements such as:  access to relationship-based primary care, a direct contract with a local, independent pharmacy and bringing all those improvements together by moving to an independent third-party administrator.  The result was rewarded by cheers from staff during education meetings at open enrollment and more importantly a significant reduction in the cost of care.

It was all going great, we even helped an employee get her ACL repaired with some innovative collaboration between her DPC doctor, the TPA and myself, remembers Gupton.  Then, March 18, 2020 came. The local health department held a meeting.  

Asheville’s restaurant community was told, “you need to shut down” due to COVID-19. 

So, that’s what they did.  Everyone remembers how scary that was. The world was at a standstill. Jobs and normal life were put on hold. The best-laid plans of returning back to normal operation were put on hold as a virus debilitated the restaurant industry.

Quarantine lasted a bit longer than expected, but when some restrictions were lifted and PPP money was available, Katie Button Restaurants began its reemergence from the shut down. By September, they’d rehired over 50 of their laid-off employees and almost all came back ready to work.  It was time to get a health plan in place to take care of everyone.  

“We kicked the tires on several ideas and while going back to being self-funded brought some trepidation with it, ultimately our prior health plan was the best choice both from a healthcare perspective and a financial perspective,” Gupton recalls.  

One point of stability that reinforces the power of community, is that the direct primary care doctors never skipped a beat.  They kept taking care of Katie Button’s employees even through quarantines and all.  When they restarted the health plan on December 1, 2020, the relief of finally getting back to normal was healing. 

In June 2021, Liz Button and Cristy Gupton convened with colleagues at the “Demystifying Healthcare Costs - a Mitigate Partners Summit” to talk about their experience and discuss best practices of their case study (which is still an evolving story).

Mitigate Partners is a collective of the brightest minds in healthcare and employee benefits. Katie and Liz had the best team working on solutions to the healthcare problem. They were working as a team to create a sustainable and affordable future for their staff. Most Mitigate Partners are Health Rosetta Advisors with other partners from the FairCo$t Health Plan.  This health plan brings the highest performing elements of health insurance to employers around the country yielding a much lower cost than the traditional carriers (referred to as BUCAs, meaning Blue Cross, United Healthcare, Cigna, Aetna).

“At the end of the day, we built this together.  As we say at Mitigate Partners,” this is employer-built NOT insurer built” and that has made all the difference.  And all it took was a good advisor and a little courage,” Cristy Gupton remarks.  

The Mitigate Partners team knows that change isn’t easy. The truth is that when you look into the faces of your employees you know change is needed.  That’s when you summon up the courage to bring about something different and better than what you had before.

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