Dennis Hartin has a passion for helping others, whether in his profession, community or circle of friends and family. Hartin Dynamics is the culmination of years of service to his clients, finding ways to make their lives better and more profitable.
Paul Wilson: How did you get your start in the benefits industry?
I didn’t grow up thinking I would get into insurance. I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart, so I tried to find something that would be a good fit. When I saw the benefits model, I liked that I got to go out and speak to people, and it required more time than money to get it off the ground. I fashion myself an entrepreneur more than an insurance professional, it’s just that insurance is the avenue I chose. It wasn’t haphazardly, it was because this is such a good business model. I’ve been in the business for about 25 years now. It’s been a long run.
PW: What changes have you seen in 25 years?
I was on the carrier side for most of that time and then switched over to the broker side a few years ago. I was in Kentucky during Hillarycare and had a relationship with a lot of brokers there who did a really good job for their clients. I saw a lot of unique and forward-thinking plan designs, because if you didn’t have your plan self-funded, you were stuck in the state high-risk pool when carriers left because of the laws.
When I got to Florida a few years ago, I wasn’t seeing a lot of those strategies being deployed. I realized I didn’t love everything I was hearing brokers say to their clients and I didn’t always feel like they were sharing the best information. I couldn’t understand why no one was trying to control the claims cost; I just wasn’t hearing that in the circles I was in. So I felt like there was a lot of opportunity to bring those same strategies to Florida.
Then I stumbled across Dave Chase’s book “The CEO’s Guide to Restoring the American Dream” and that philosophy was very aligned with the strategies I’d seen years ago in Kentucky. I am now a Health Rosetta certified advisor, but a lot of these ideas have been happening for a long time. It just wasn’t a global revolution. I did research to understand why it wasn’t happening in Florida. We’re a very carrier-centric state, so it’s often been a matter of finding the level of least resistance. I just felt like there was opportunity for someone who could tackle it a little bit differently.
PW: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for advisors right now?
I think the biggest challenge is that we’ve done a really good job as an advisor community of teaching companies that they need to have a PPO and be in a network or they’re not safe. And I realized that I was actually part of the problem; I would go in and communicate that they need to raise their deductible to lower their health costs, not knowing the byproduct of that is an entire company that is basically functionally uninsured. If you look at the statistics about the average American having $500 or $1,000 in the bank, and then look at a $5,000 deductible on average, that math just doesn’t work.
An opportunity is presented, because the costs have gotten so high that it just can’t be ignored anymore. Advisors who are genuinely independent and sitting on the same side of the table as the employer are where the industry will go. It won’t happen quickly, but for clients who are tired of being told the same old strategies with no long-term results, it’s a great fit.
Costs have gotten so high that the employers and employees are fed up with it. But if we don’t have a better story, our risk is Medicare for All. The politicians know there is an issue and the only way they know to try to tackle it is to expand Medicare. I don’t think anyone’s under the impression that’s a great idea, but where are people getting better ideas from? If you’re the politician and Medicare for All isn’t the answer, then what is?
PW: Are you seeing employers and employees who are becoming more open to trying new things?
I think most are trying to do one of two things. One is to say:“We can’t afford it; we can’t do it,” forcing employees to go without health care. I actually had an employer last week say, “Why would I spend money for anything, including a direct-primary care solution? My employees have figured out that they can just show up at the emergency room and they’re not going to be turned away.” When that’s the environment we’re in, it will only create more problems in the long term.
Employers are frustrated and feel absolutely trapped. Advisors who they’re paying to help them attract and retain talent are showing up with a limited toolbox. Too often, it ends up being the same old things. So when employers see someone who’s looking at it differently and showing them they’re on the same side of the table, it’s resonating.
PW: Is there also a lot of pressure to get things right very quickly? Is the window closing? Are you optimistic this can get fixed?
I genuinely feel like we have an opportunity to fix it, but we have to bring real value. We can’t just show up and sign a document and get paid a ton of money. There’s work in doing it right, and not everybody’s interested in doing that work. Unfortunately, we’re putting our own industry at risk. There’s very few brokers who are trying to do what’s in the best interest of our industry and to keep it alive and thriving. The number is very limited compared with how many could be involved.
PW: How do you keep from getting overwhelmed?
In my old career, there were thousands of people who’d been on the same path, so all I had to do was find someone who had already done it. I’m finding now that the bigger challenge is that there are very few people who have successfully gone down this road. There are a lot of talking heads and people who say they’re doing these things, so I try to research all the groups of advisors that are out there and then determine, to the best of my ability, who’s really getting the job done? Outside of all the noise we see on LinkedIn, who’s actually performing?
When you find the right group for you, those are people you can lean on. I won’t meet with a vendor unless they understand the Health Rosetta philosophies and I find one of my peers to vouch for them and say, “That’s a solution you should look at closely.”
PW: I’m fascinated by the groundswell in the industry of people who are genuinely trying to fix a broken system.
One thing I’ve shown in my career is I’m not afraid of a big fight, as long as it’s for the right reasons and will help people. I’m 45 and feel like I have one more rodeo in me. I want to spend the next 20 years trying to help from a much bigger perspective. One of the things that drew me to this industry was I felt like I could help people.
PW: How can the industry attract the people who can help?
I’ll frame it with my nephew and son in mind. Their generation wants to help and they realize the world isn’t a perfect place. If they’re going to put energy into something, it has to be something that will leave things better than when they found it.
There’s a company I’m working with now called Autism Shifts that recognized 90 percent of the autistic community is unemployed. So many people they work with would make perfect employees in the right space. But somebody has to take the time to find the right spot.
With my son and others in his generation, it has to be about something bigger than the dollars. My generation just wanted nice cars, nice watches, big homes, big vacations. My son doesn’t care anything about that; he cares about leaving the world a better place.
NAHU’s Vanguard Council has gotten behind the Children’s Dream Racers. We place these child-sized versions of NASCAR race cars in children’s hospitals around the country and they have TVs and video games inside. That’s one of the ways NAHU is attracting that next generation to the industry. It’s not just about the money; it’s about helping the client and leaving the world in a better place.
PW: Finish this sentence: The key to success in this industry going forward is…
Absolute blind grit. Go and do.
Read more from our Face of Change series: