Countering bad insurance deals
Adam Berkowitz wants to turn the employee benefits industry on its head.
Like many young advisers, Berkowitz entered the field by chance, when he was looking for a job after graduating with a business degree. Nine years later, in the fall of 2016, he founded Simpara, a benefits agency that aims to reverse the onslaught of rising healthcare costs.
Despite a non-solicit agreement with his previous employer, Berkowitz brought in 28 clients for Simpara within a year of starting the agency. Now 18 months in, he’s built a thriving, all-digital agency serving mostly middle-market businesses with an average of 50 to 500 employees.
The pervasive use of technology “allows us to be very nimble, while it lets our clients get much more engaged on a people level,” says 32-year-old Berkowitz. Giving clients' employees access to a benefits portal, for instance, means “They’re not bogged down in the enrollment process and can be better healthcare consumers.”
Widespread use of tech also frees Berkowitz to take a more consultative approach and focus on driving down his clients' benefits cost. “I was tired of delivering bad news to my clients year after year: ‘Your costs are going to go up. Your deductibles are going to go up.’ I knew there had to be a better way. So that’s what I set out to create.”
In the summer of 2017, Berkowitz took a big step forward for his business by obtaining a certification from Health Rosetta, an organization dedicated to healthcare cost reduction through the alignment of adviser and employer incentives, and improving industry transparency and efficiency.
“The immediate benefit was just reaffirming that I’m going down the right path, and that I’m not alone,” says Berkowitz. “There’re other people who have figured this out already and are willing to work together toward the same goal, which is putting money back in the employees’ paycheck and increasing the business’ cash flow by reducing the employer’s health spend.”
Simpara’s approach is winning kudos from industry peers, such as fellow adviser and Health Rosetta member David Contorno. “He’s doing an absolutely fantastic job in a transparent and value-driven way,” says Contorno, president of Lake Norman Benefits. “He’s incredibly smart. A very hard worker. And very creative. You don’t often find those three attributes in a single person.”
Explaining why he started his firm in the first place, Berkowitz says he didn’t want to get bogged down by the same old “tired processes” that have prevailed in the benefits for years. On his list are such hidebound practices as spreadsheet quoting, carrier switching and limiting negotiations to minor drops in the premium.
Berkowitz also sees himself as a champion for his generation. “It’s not just millennials that are shaking things up,” he admits, “but ours is the first generation where we’re expected to fall short of our parents’ lifestyle, because healthcare is eroding our wages. I really see this group fighting back against that.”
And for those millennials that are interested in solving the healthcare problem, he wants them to know that “This is an incredible time to be in this space.” The industry, he says, “truly needs an influx of younger talent.”