It’s been nearly 10 years since Mark Isley founded Group Benefit Specialists, which he considers the pinnacle of his career so far.
Isley, the company’s president, purchased the employee benefits division of Manning & Smith Insurance from Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., an international firm that had acquired Manning in 2011.
“They moved the property and casualty offices to Houston, and because of our onsite presence with mostly regional employers and clients, that was my opportunity to purchase the benefits division and keep it in Wichita,” Isley said.
Isley had been with Manning & Smith since 1992. He had previously worked for Reserve National, New York Life and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas.
Since it was founded, GBS has grown from six employees to 14, and the company has experienced double-digit net income growth nearly every year since it was founded, Isley said. GBS works with clients that have anywhere from two to 3,500 employees.
Although the company works on all sorts of benefits, the big focus in the coming year will be changes to health care plans, Isley said.
“There’s just a lot of creativity, a lot of discussions, and you can’t go at them with one answer,” Isley said. “You really need to understand the culture at each employer, what value the employers place on employee benefits and what value employees place on their benefits.”
Their clients want to find ways to avoid or mitigate as many negative effects as possible, Isley said, and they want to know how the Affordable Care Act will affect their existing arrangement – and they want to know the potential penalties mandated by the play-or-pay provisions of the federal law.
The GBS model focuses on meeting with clients year-round, not just at renewal time.
“That model has served us well, especially moving into health reform,” Isley said. “Folks in our business are having to change their models, and we really are ahead of the curve when it comes to that because that model has been our model going back to Day 1.”
But Isley doesn’t expect there are any quick or easy solutions for employers in regard to changes in health care.
“We’re still waiting for answers. With something this enormous, there will be regulations and adaptations for years,” Isley said.
“Whether or not the product or the insurance in place is written through us or not, they still need that help to analyze and evaluate, explain, communicate and educate.”