The Future Leaders of the Benefits Arena

by Cole Hollander

A strong presence of young and motivated individuals is vital for any industry's long-term success. Unfortunately, there are not too many college students, or recent graduates, who answer, "What area would you like to begin a career in?" with the career path, “benefits.” However, that does not mean that we do not exist, and it certainly does not mean that we are not motivated to be a part of this essential space.

Though I graduated from college in May 2022, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the benefits industry since August 2021. Before I entered the benefits industry, my grasp on “benefits” failed to extend past the idea that they were part of the employees' package alongside their salary and 401k. The meaningful products and services that members of this industry pour their heart and soul into with an intention to build a substantial and purposeful concoction of benefits for an employee and their family to increase their health, wealth, and overall well-being with, was a notion that eluded me and many others my age.

However, it turns out that I am not the only recent college graduate that has come to the realization that there is an entire industry and thousands of people who have dedicated their lives to ensuring employees across America are provided or have the opportunity to enroll in benefits programs that focus on the well-being of employees above all else. Recently I had the opportunity to attend the SIIA conference in Phoenix, where I was able to interact with hundreds of other young professionals in this industry. We were able to swap stories of employees who were positively impacted by plans they helped implement or interactions they had with peers in similar positions of more experience who continued to further their understanding of the value we have the ability to provide.

It was my first time at SIIA and I was early out of college--initially, this made me feel nervous to attend. Thankfully, Pranov Duggasani, CEO of Slingshot Bills, shared a similar sentiment, “The first day when we walked in, it felt a little intimidating, but what we quickly realized is everyone here is super nice as well as really open and accepting; quickly, that feeling of intimidation fell away and people were really friendly and excited to see young people like us joining the industry.” Duggasani and Zoe Holderness, CTO of Slingshot Bills, had a fascinating story to share at the conference which came from an overcharging problem Zoe had faced in the healthcare system. From the personal experience, they decided to create a fix. The motivation and perseverance they displayed was evident and contagious, giving hope to all who interacted with them.

Garrett Mineau from Goodroot views the biggest roadblock in the healthcare industry as the high costs that plague the space. The problem will require an all-hands-on deck to work towards the same goal and Mineau was confident the “hands” he met at SIIA, including brokers, PBMs, and TPAs were putting their best foot forward in a fight to lower costs for the essential care that employees not only needed, but deserved. His pessimism for some of the norms of the past was matched with an exceeding optimism for the norms of the future, as well as a drive to be captain of the ship that finds and implements the norms of the future that begin with the employee being “number one.”

The future is still foggy, but Erin Duffy of Imagine360 believes that the fog will lift soon: “I wish I had a crystal ball for the future, but there is such a trend right now in terms of transparency whether it's on the medical side, pharmacy, the government coming out with the CAA and No Surprise Act, all of these are coming together for a push towards transparency and the employee being in the driver's seat.” This, I believe, was the overall sentiment most attendees left the conference with. A hope for the future, and either a newfound, or a reinvigorated drive, sense of passion, and purpose for being involved in the healthcare and benefits industry.



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