Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorder Benefits Are Critical For All Employers

RICHMOND, VA – The McShin Foundation requires exceptional mental health and substance abuse disorder services when it comes to its employee benefits package. During national Mental Health Awareness Month 2023, which focuses on acceptance and support, understanding the role mental health benefits play in mental health awareness is critical.

The McShin Foundation, a non-profit Recovery Community Organization (RCO) founded in 2004 by husband-and-wife duo John Shinholser and Carol McDaid, provides resources for individuals struggling with substance abuse.

Now a multi-million-dollar non-profit, it operates 16 recovery residences with 150 beds and a 15,000-square-foot recovery center with 25 employees, all of whom have lived experiences with recovery. McShin employees serve as peer specialists in the RCO program, creating a unique set of employees with a unique set of benefit needs.

“I just want to make sure our employees get what they need when they need it. MillenGroup provided us with the ability to shape our healthcare policies so that we not only offered your meat-and-potato policies but included added benefits, especially for mental health and addiction – and that got my attention.”

– John Shinholser, President Emeritus, The McShin Foundation

Shinholser said MillenGroup helped the Foundation sort through health insurance policy details and drill down to find exactly what its employee population needed.

“MillenGroup said if you really want this benefit, let’s shape this policy to fit your needs and I thought that was genius,” Shinholser said. He would know. He is no stranger to advocating for his employees and the recovery community.

A long-standing advocate for recovery, Shinholser worked to pass a bill in Virginia to make Narcan readily available for individuals overdosing. He was instrumental in getting The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008 passed, which now “requires health insurers and group health plans that offer mental health and substance use disorder benefits to provide the same level of benefits for mental and/or substance use treatment and services that they do for medical/surgical care,” according to HHS.

“Mr. Shinholser will not hold back on his convictions and responsibilities to serve this population,” said Debra Willis, Business Development Manager for MillenGroup. “We find it humbling to help an organization that has made such a difference and improved so many lives.”

“Support, direction, concern, and reality is all a part of the mission of the McShin Foundation. That matches our convictions of helping organizations provide benefits for their employees,” Willis said. “If the employees at McShin are not taken care of, they cannot care for those in recovery.”

The Foundation began working with MillenGroup in 2022 and has been able to add several new and unique employee options to their benefits program without significantly raising costs for the non-profit.

“The truth is treatment is a sprint; recovery is a marathon. Recovery happens in the community. Data is starting to prove that it is the peer connection in the community that takes place after clinical treatment where the best outcomes in recovery are going to be incurred,” Shinholser said.

To ensure proper coverage for McShin’s peer connectors means their employees can continue to help the individuals who walk through their doors in Virginia, as well as the thousands visiting each year from across the world to learn about its programs and receive training.

“Our employees are our life blood we cannot operate or be as valuable as we are without our employees,” Shinholser said. “That’s why I really like MillenGroup because they understand that value and I believe they do their best work with a company like us.”

Healthcare workers want lower healthcare costs, too!

RICHMOND, VA – Despite being part of the healthcare system, healthcare providers struggle with finding affordable and flexible medical benefit plans for their employees, just like all employers.

Capital Area Health Network in Richmond, VA, is a Federally Qualified Community Health Center under the Health Resources Services Administration, offering access to quality care for the uninsured and the under-insured, Medicaid and Medicare patients, and anyone in the community who needs access to care.

CAHN has a robust network offering primary care, pediatrics, mental health, dental and healthcare education at six locations throughout the Richmond area with 140 employees, roughly 70% of whom are on the healthcare plan. Last year, the organization saw just over 14,000 patients.

“They have employees, and they have a benefit plan just like everybody else,” said John Millen, MillenGroup co-founder and managing partner. “And just like many employers, they were struggling to keep up with the rising cost of healthcare for their employees.”

“For several years, we’ve seen our cost rise and rise and rise. Even being in the healthcare field, we were asking, ‘What is happening? Why is this happening to us?’” said CAHN CEO Tracy Causey.

“We were trying to offer healthcare to our employees, and we wanted to make sure they could afford the healthcare plan, but it had become an issue.”

Causey said the size of CAHN put it at a disadvantage when dealing with healthcare insurance companies.

“Being a small to a medium employer, that sandwiched us in a way. The health insurers had an advantage over us. We really couldn’t negotiate or have a meaningful conversation with the insurance company as to why our healthcare costs were as high as they were.”

And high they were, CAHN saw annual double digit increases for its employee health plan year after year. Looking for ways to reduce costs, Causey and his team began to investigate options ranging from becoming self-insured to joining a state association that might reduce costs. They found a solution with MillenGroup, an independent employee benefits advisory agency based in Richmond.

CAHN was purchasing what is called a Retail healthcare plan, where an employer purchases a preset package of services for employees. The first step to helping reduce the up to 50% increases in cost was to move to a customized plan, or a Wholesale healthcare plan.

John Millen explained, “We moved Capital Area Health Network to a situation where they purchased healthcare insurance on a wholesale basis, taking pieces of coverage that fit its particular employee population’s wants and needs. The customized plan acts like any other plan, but in actuality it is a partially self-funded medical plan instead of a fully insured plan.”

Using artificial intelligence (A.I.) to develop a risk profile of Capital Area Health’s employees, MillenGroup customized the plan without having to go through extensive employee surveys or individual medical questionnaires. 

“The A.I. risk profile included modeling of the employee demographic’s health characteristics to determine risk. That cutting-edge technology allowed us to get pricing for insurance that very specifically fit their needs,” Millen explained.

The other significant advantage CAHN has is that they were accepted, and invited to become a member of, a private risk-sharing consortium of employers who work in tandem to control claims and cost with more buying power.

“The major thing we learned in this process is that we can control a lot of our costs ourselves,” Causey said. “We are encouraging our employees, like we encourage our patients, to live healthier. That was a very important moment in this process. Also, we did not know that we could piecemeal a plan together.”

Causey said much of the savings came from building a healthcare plan based on what his employees needed rather than just the package the insurance company offered. “We could pick and chose offerings and understand what those offerings mean to our organization. And we no longer overbuy.” That meant an immediate reduction in the monthly premiums.

“The employee contribution to the plan is less now and we are getting more benefits. We were overbuying and not getting exactly what we need. Now we are buying exactly what we need, and our employees feel that,” Causey said.

 “I really think that with the last couple of years of the pandemic and all the other stressors, being able to put some money back into our employees’ pockets was a real morale booster. And the fact that our employees see that we, as an employer, hear them and get them. They were paying too much money for healthcare, and we heard that. That builds morale.”

“We wanted to help Capital Area Health Network find a better solution because their employees are taking care of the community’s health,” Millen said. “We really enhanced their benefits, and their cost went down dramatically. The new structure of the plan will also allow them to control the escalating cost of healthcare over the next five years in a way that could not do in the past.” 

City of Fort Worth saves $1.7 million in fraud by removing suspect pharmacies from its health plan

FORT WORTH, TX – In its work to reduce the cost of employee health care claims, the City of Fort Worth has excluded 24 suspect pharmacies from billing its plan, preventing $1.7 million in fraudulent payments to date, without member disruption.

For several years, Fort Worth officials have worked with SmartLight Analytics to find and remediate wasteful spending in its self-funded healthcare plan. In 2020, analysts added reviewing pharmacy claims and found suspect billing in this data, too.

“The patterns indicating abusive billing were clear. In one scheme, members were being prescribed broadly available creams and ointments by physicians that they hadn’t seen, and the prescriptions were filled at pharmacies hundreds of miles away from their home,” said Asha George, CEO and co-founder of SmartLight Analytics.

Working with Fort Worth’s pharmacy benefits manager (PBM), a plan was developed to address pharmacies where clear abusive patterns were noted in the data. The City has now suspended claims to 24 suspect pharmacies preventing an estimated $1.7 in fraudulent payments. It should be noted that the findings and actions were not disruptive for city employees. To date, not one employee complaint has been received, further confirming that employees were not aware these prescriptions were being filled under their pharmacy benefits. 

“Whenever we find waste, fraud, or abuse for obvious reasons, we want to stop that as quickly as possible,” said Nathan Gregory, HR Director for the City of Fort Worth. “Everything we do within our health fund, we do with an awareness that ultimately, we are dealing with taxpayer funds. It’s our responsibility to provide good benefits to our employees but also in a sustainable manner so that our health plan is sustainable in the long-term.” 

“We have been working with the City of Fort Worth to reduce its healthcare plan costs by regularly reviewing claims looking for fraud, waste or abuse that is adding to the City’s costs,” George said. “Since 2020, we’ve been able to return $3.5 million in savings back to the City’s plan from all of the medical and pharmacy overpayments.”  

To read a full paper on the Fort Wort pharmacy findings, click here. 

SmartLight Analytics combines the best inferential analytic models with a team of health insurance data and clinical experts to find fraud, waste, and abuse in self-funded employer healthcare plan claims data. SmartLight Analytics works with large employers to help them reduce healthcare spending by identifying and mitigating waste in claims. The process used by SmartLight Analytics uses proprietary models as well as clinical and investigative teams to minimize false positives. The team presents highly confident results and works directly with carriers to remediate costs.

Business owners can make the American Jobs Plan work if they are prepared

Tonight, President Joe Biden will promote the American Jobs Plan, a massive $2 trillion spending plan to rebuild infrastructure and reshape the economy, in his speech to Congress. As currently proposed, it would be the largest jobs investment since World War II, allocating billions of dollars to job training, research and development, and manufacturing. Whether business owners are in favor of the plan or not, it may indeed have a massive impact on their company and employees moving forward.

MillenGroup has reviewed the plan to offer advice and expertise on what could be some major changes to businesses and our economy as a whole. John Millen, – co-founder and managing partner of MillenGroup, the healthcare advisory firm founded in Richmond – says business should focus on four main points that will help attract and retain the talent necessary to be successful in the year ahead.

The American Jobs Plan consists of four major spending categories: Research and Development ($400 billion), The Care Economy ($650 billion), At-Home Infrastructure ($580 billion) and Infrastructure ($621 billion). Businesses need to prepare for this spending by:

1.         Attracting Skilled Labor: If a business in one of the industries set to gain new funding (or if a business supports these industries in any way) they need to determine how they are going to attract skilled labor?

2.         Communicating Values to Employees: How does manufacturing integrate into the jobs plan? It integrates in the basic sense that companies will need tools, supplies, and materials to rebuild the roads, bridges, highways, airports, transit systems, water systems, piping systems, and so on. The manufacturing sector is likely to experience an increase in demand if it supplies these types of projects. How well a business communicates the values it holds to employees over the course of the next year will determine how well it can compete for these projects.

3.         Improving Women’s Labor Force Participation: Improving the women’s labor force participation is an area of focus explicitly mentioned in the overview of the American Jobs Plan and this is a good thing. If a business is woman-owned, its leadership might consider how it will be affected by this increased focus on women labor force participation going forward. For example, getting SWaM Certification might be worthwhile.

4.         Maximizing Employee Benefits: Finally, it’s also noted that 40% of the American Jobs Plan spending will be going to the disadvantaged communities of our nation. Is your company ready to attract and retain these workers? Hint, benefits attract and retain workers (sometimes more than salary!)

As businesses continue to learn more about the American Jobs Plan and the ways in which it may impact their organization and employees, now is the time to begin incorporating new ideas into their approach. The economy and the world are quickly changing around us all the time. Meeting these new challenges often requires embracing a new strategy or technique.

Read an expanded version of John Millen’s perspective for businesses here.

To reach John Millen to speak about how the Jobs Plan will affect businesses, see the contact information below.

To reach John for an interview:

P: 804-459-8102


John Millen’s credentials include:

  • Independent advisor with a focus on reducing healthcare expenses
  • Virtual care specialist and Continuing Education trainer
  • Chief architect of “The $0 Deductible Solution”
  • Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist (CITRMS)
  • Licenses: Life, Health, Annuities, Legal, Long-Term Care

For more information contact:

Barbara Esteves-Moore, Public Relations

C: 615-631-4383


Real estate company uses flat fee to save millions for homeowners AND grow business

NASHVILLE, TN — Several unexpected events disrupted the real estate industry in Nashville this year including tornadoes and COVID-19 but the growing trend of flat fee realtor services is disrupting the way people sell their homes forever.

A year ago, Jonathan Harris, founder of Scout Realty, began working with an elderly couple who needed to sell their property and recoup as much equity as possible. He tested an idea of charging a flat fee for his real estate services instead of charging the standard 6% commission. This would help the couple keep more of the equity they built up themselves over the years. Harris did not change his service model, just what he was charging for it. The idea worked well, so he offered a flat fee to more clients and business volume increased as a result. This May, Scout Realty launched the flat fee model as a standard for the company and is working toward expanding regionally.

 “We have a vision that by the end of 2025 we will have served 10,000 families and saved them $100 million in equity.”  

Jonathan Harris, Scout Realty Founder

“It is a disruption inside the real estate industry,” Harris said of the flat fee. “It threatens how real estate agents have traditionally made their money. But it gives homeowners the opportunity to benefit more from the sweat equity they have put into their homes.”

“This is needed in our community now more than ever,” he added. “Homeowners need to keep more of their equity and get more of their own money out of their homes.”

The idea is not new, Harris said. It is commonplace in developed countries outside of the U.S. But inside the U.S., the model is not popular with real estate agents because it runs against the traditional commission formula which generally charges homeowners 6% of their total home sale. Using a fee model (Scout charges a basic fee of $5,000) Harris estimates he has saved clients $2.8 million in commission charges since the beginning of 2020.

“What gives meaning to this way of doing business for us is the stories we are hearing from our clients,” Harris said. “One homeowner saved more than $18,000 using our fee system instead of a traditional 6% commission and used the money to pay for his daughter’s wedding. Another client told us they used the money to make their last tuition payment to the University of Tennessee and another paid off their minivan.”

The Suggs family worked with Scout and saved $64,412 using the flat fee model instead of a 6% commission. “That pays for a lifetime of travel baseball for our kids,” the family said.

Harris said he sees the fee model as the future of real estate because it more evenly distributes the equity in a home. But he has gotten pushback on the idea from other agencies and realtors. Yet, his team of agents have seen their book of business steadily increase and that is proving his point.

“It’s given us a renewed sense of purpose and made a tangible difference in our business,” he said. “We’ve made up the monetary difference (when calculating revenue that would have been generated under the commission model) and a whole lot more. We are winning new clients every day.”

“For me, it is an act of fiduciary responsibility. At Scout, our focus is people over profits,” Harris said, adding that Scout Realty is currently working with several interested parties throughout the United States to replicate the model.

“Clients felt like their hard-earned equity was eroded away during a sale and I started to see a better way to do business,” he said. “You have to be willing to go down to go up. So, in the short term, as an agent, you make less, but we’ve come out on the other side of that and it’s a good side.”

Female entrepreneurs don’t let COVID-19 stop merger

Its Arranged founders Amy Delaplain and Cynthia Lindsey

FRANKLIN, TN – Two local business owners are combining their solo projects to form a new partnership capitalizing on their individual strengths – one as a veteran entrepreneur and the other a successful newcomer – to create a new life and home organizing model that focuses on helping clients find a sense of clarity, balance and control in their lives and homes.

Cynthia Lindsey, owner of the 14-year-old Organizing Ease company, is partnering with Amy Delaplain, owner of Project Organize 615 which opened in 2017 and quickly expanded in the Middle Tennessee home organizing market. The two women are blending their businesses into the new venture, Its Arranged, and bringing their seven employees along.

I was ready to take my business to the next level and this partnership allows me to do that.

Amy Delaplain, co-founder

“The industry as a whole is very solopreneur-oriented,” said Lindsey who is a long-time member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals™ (NAPO®) and currently serving on the Board of Directors for the national association. “Over the past 10 years or so the growth in the industry, however, has been multi-person businesses and the partnership model is fairly new to our field.”

Lindsey said when she met Delaplain at a NAPO meeting she saw the strengths the PO615 owner brought to the table, which complemented her own. After 14 years of running her successful business alone, the idea of forming a partnership appealed to her.

“I felt like this trend of a veteran organizer partnering with a newer organizer in the field who has had great success with new energy and fresh ideas would be a powerhouse in our industry,” Lindsey said. “I was not ready to retire but was looking for some way to pivot. Combining with a partner who is younger can really extend the life of my company.”

For Delaplain, who currently serves on the NAPO Nashville board after joining in 2017 when she started her Franklin-based business, the partnership is a way to continue expanding. Coming from corporate project management, Delaplain followed her passion for organizing when she began her solo project. It quickly grew from just Delaplain to a team of five employees within the first two years.

“Cynthia has done a lot of self-reflection and studying of her strengths, which appealed to me,” Delaplain said. “I was ready to take my business to the next level and this partnership allows me to do that. While I continue to use my strengths in the areas of marketing, finance, and operations, I will have Cynthia to handle the business development, HR and legal aspects of running a business.”

Its Arranged is the result of months of planning and developing an ethos around the mission and vision for the business. Both even managed to push through with planning despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The life and home organization concept comes out of their desire to help individuals and families find calm tranquility in their living space and a fresh start. It mimics what the two women are doing with their new partnership. The concept may be needed now more than ever.

“We want to help people bring things back to the basics, … which is simplifying your life, finding calm in your surroundings and eliminating things and thoughts that are scattered and manic,” Lindsey said. “We work with people to organize their homes and their lives. During times like a move when things can really become chaotic, we can organize the process.”

“We believe in living life to the fullest and inspiring others to do the same,” the two spelled out in their business mission statement. “Our clients are our focus and improving the quality of their lives is our mission. In the office or in the home, our commitment is to create spaces where our clients can thrive, and to manage move transitions and remodel projects with ease.”

Its Arranged offers home and life management, professional organizing and move management executed with years of strong project management experience. The team is ready to take new clients and continue working with the clients who have supported Organizing Ease and PO615.

City of Fort Worth and SmartLight Analytics Form Partnership to Reduce Healthcare Costs

FORT WORTH, TX, December 11, 2019 – The City of Fort Worth recently partnered with healthcare cost-reduction experts, SmartLight Analytics, in an innovative effort to alleviate the rising costs of employee healthcare. An initial analysis of employee healthcare claims from the previous two years showed that the ongoing partnership could save millions for the City over the next few years.

Given the estimate that 1 in 3 healthcare dollars in the US are spent on fraud, waste, or abuse, the City of Fort Worth was eager to find an independent partner with the required expertise to reduce unnecessary costs for employees, retirees, and taxpayers. The City of Fort Worth Human Resources department engaged SmartLight Analytics to review a subset of past paid claims in a pilot program. Initial findings showed that an ongoing partnership would give the City additional tools to continue to proactively fight against wasteful healthcare spending and decrease its overall healthcare costs. 

SmartLight CEO, Asha George, said its “singular objective is to meaningfully reduce the City of Fort Worth’s per member per month (PMPM) cost by identifying and removing wasteful spending from its annual health plan dollars.”

“The intended outcome of this examination was to report significant findings to Fort Worth on its health plan spend and also provide solutions for reducing potential wasteful spend in future payments,” SmartLight stated in its first report to the City.

Some examples of what SmartLight Analytics was able to identify include:

  • pass-through billing schemes where unscrupulous physicians route lab services to out-of-network labs who in turn send the claims to in-network rural hospitals in order to receive a higher reimbursement due to their remote location, or
  • medically unnecessary abusive urine drug screening and genetic testing claims, or
  • identifying claims submitted that violate the anti-kickback laws, or
  • overuse of emergency rooms.

Given the success of the initial engagement, SmartLight Analytics will now enter into an on-going partnership with the City. Once a wasteful claim is identified, SmartLight will pass that information on to the City’s current medical and prescription providers and work with them to get the money back for the City. Additionally, the medical or prescription providers may report these findings to authorities to help curb the abuse throughout the healthcare system. SmartLight Analytics anticipates the City could save up to $2-$3 million per year in reduced wasteful claim costs.

“We anticipate that SmartLight Analytics will identify claims with fraud, waste, or abuse.  Then, they will work with our claims administrator to recover the costs for the City, and have them credited back to us,” said Brian

Dickerson, Fort Worth’s Human Resources Director. “This will be a win for our employees, our retirees, and the taxpayers of the City of Fort Worth.”

SmartLight Analytics provides a comprehensive solution to effectively reduce health care spend through proven methods developed over decades of focused experience. The City of Fort Worth engaged the firm to further reduce spending and save taxpayer dollars. The SmartLight Analytics clinical team led by board-certified physicians reviewed the claims that were identified as either being unnecessary, duplicates, or billing errors that are costing the City unnecessary dollars. The initial report was generated using statistical models and showed the City of Fort Worth exactly where there were issues. On a go forward basis, through their data analytics and clinical expertise, SmartLight will work with the City’s insurance carrier to eliminate future wasteful claims. 

The partnership will provide the City with significant savings.


Analytics firm tackles rising cost of healthcare

DALLAS, TX – As executives across the country are looking for ways to reverse the trend of ever-increasing employee healthcare costs and the government is pushing for more transparency in billing, a Dallas-based analytics firm is providing a new way to accomplish both.

Asha George, CEO and co-founder of SmartLight Analytics, said her aim is to make a meaningful impact on the rising cost of healthcare for employers and employees. She has spent years working to build a team of data analytic specialists and clinical board-certified physicians to conduct systematic reviews that result in significant cost savings. Big employers – especially those with 10,000 or more employees – don’t have the time or expertise to monitor claims, she said. And, claims processors are consumed by just processing and paying the claims, which means there is usually no review happening.

Two such employers – Dean Foods and the City of Fort Worth – are diving deep into their employee medical claims to find savings from waste, duplication, errors and even fraud. Both employers are working with SmartLight Analytics to mine their healthcare claims data for things like unnecessary testing, billing two doctors for the same service and careless errors. Fraud can also be a significant find. In Fort Worth, an initial assessment of the city’s employee healthcare claims data aims to further reduce healthcare spending costs, which in 2017 went $15.2 million overbudget. Dean Foods began reviewing its claims in 2016 and is reaping the benefits now.

Mike Adams, Vice President of Benefits & HR systems of Dean Foods, a multi-billion-dollar food and beverage company, said the process worked in reducing healthcare costs for their 16,000 employees.

“It’s an extremely good investment of our corporate dollars,” Adams said. “SmartLight established a good working relationship with our medical claims processor. We are extremely happy with the results. They identified claims with waste and fraud, researched and recovered those costs and had it credited back to us.”      

Fort Worth could also see similar results.

“The City of Fort Worth is looking at ways to further reduce their employee healthcare spend because they have a finite budget and, when it comes to managing the rising cost of healthcare,  they have to continue to look for ways to contain those costs,” George said. “The city has reduced spending in the last year and gotten costs under control with some innovative initiatives such as on-site clinics. We will work to help them realize further savings on healthcare costs by identifying wasteful spending and errors currently occurring in their employee healthcare claims.”

The city’s budget saw a dramatic turn-around in 2018 when the cost for providing healthcare for more than 6,000 employees plus dependents came in under budget. As the city, like many other municipalities and businesses, continue to face the uphill battle of rising healthcare costs, officials engaged with SmartLight Analytics to look at additional innovative means to keep costs under control moving forward.

George said SmartLight’s role will be to analyze two to three years of healthcare claims from the city to find waste — such as duplication of services, unintentional billing errors, and intentional fraud, waste or abuse — and take action to eliminate this unnecessary spend from the city’s employee healthcare costs.

“We’re in the process of getting historical data to run through our inferential analytical models now,” George explained.

The SmartLight Analytics clinical team of medical coding specialists, led by board-certified physicians, reviews claims identified by analytic models as either having waste, duplications, errors or other issues that could be costing the city unnecessary dollars. They then report those findings to executives to show exactly where there was wasteful spending or other errors or claims issues. SmartLight’s clinical team takes it to the next level by working with insurance carriers to eliminate the wasteful claims before they are paid again on similar claims in the future.

George said she expects SmartLight to identify as much as a 5% savings on the healthcare spend through its analytical analysis for each client. The initial process takes rough 8-10 weeks to complete once SmartLight receives the data, both medical and pharmacy claims. Fort Worth should see its first report sometime in late September.

 “In the end, if we’ve done our job, as we have for other customers,” George said, “we can reduce the city’s spending, and eventually, the out of pocket expenses for employees without reducing benefits.”

George said SmartLight is focused solely on reducing year-over-year medical spend for self-funded employers.

“I headed up the Payment Integrity departments inside various large insurance carriers for decades before starting SmartLight Analytics. SmartLight was created because we saw the need for more independent, pro-active intervention in reducing unnecessary healthcare spend,” George said. “Our goal is to deliver our insider expertise to self-funded employers to lower healthcare costs for everyone – employer and employee.”

“I’m passionate about making a meaningful impact in this space,” she said. “Insurance carriers, in the role of third-party administrators, do their best to manage the waste in the system while processing claims, but we have, without exception, reduced spend by an additional 3-5% for our customers.”

Event aims to shine the light on and celebrate the complex world of stepmothers

FRANKLIN, TN – Becoming a stepmother does not come with a how-to guide or even a 12-step program. The Stepmom Connection is working to change that by bringing together authors, speakers and mentors in Franklin, Tenn., July 20th to celebrate and discuss the complicated world of being a mother in a blended family.

“Being a stepmom is a unique experience,” said Tammy Daughtry, author of “Co-Parenting Works!” and founder of the Center for Modern Family Dynamics in Nashville. “The Stepmom Connection event is an effort to come together to celebrate and unpack the unique challenges and blessings of being a stepmom.”

Daughtry, who is a stepmother herself and grew up with a stepmother, will be joined by Moody Radio broadcast personality Dawn Rae; authors Carol Boley, Samara Ashley, Diane Ingram Fromme, Gayla Grace, Sue McGray, and Rachel Scott; The Fish radio host Caryn Cruise; founder and professor Heather Hetchler; marriage strategist and author Yolanda Harris-Jackson; and ministry leaders Sara Kate Hooper, Kim Beihl and Deanna Kaech. Gil and Brenda Stuart, founders of Restored and Remarried, will speak about the couple issues involved in step-parenting.

 The event will shine a spotlight on often undiscussed topics such as dealing with an ex-spouse, step parenting children whose parent has died as well as issues around marriage, siblings, managing expectations and more. It will also introduce stepmothers to resources such as the “One Heart, Two Homes” curriculum and helpful guides such as the “Top 10 Things Kids Wish They Could Say to Their Divorced Parents.”

“When I remarried after my divorce and became a stepmother, I was looking for guidance and advice but could not find much,” said Daughtry, who is a marriage and family therapist. “I don’t want other women to feel that way.”  

The event begins at 9 a.m. (doors open at 8 a.m.) at The Grove in Franklin on Saturday, July 20, and includes an option Friday night “Get-to-know-you” dinner and a Saturday night out in Nashville. Registration is at


Peak Performance Group aims to change the employee benefits landscape with “Benefit Hackers” initiative

RICHMOND, VA – Though it may sound nefarious, hacking into your employee benefits is quite the opposite.

Peak Performance Group, the worksite benefits communication and enrollment firm founded in Richmond, VA in 2001, is changing the employee benefits landscape with its “Benefits Hackers” initiative which aims to help employers and employees by taking them deeper into their benefit options and implementing “hacks” to make benefits work better for both sides.

Over the last 10 years, PPG founders John and Laura Millen have watched as benefit costs have gone up and coverage has gone down across the country. As small business owners themselves, they felt compelled to work to change that pattern.

“Over the last 10 years, healthcare costs have roughly doubled, and that cost has been passed on to employees,” said John Millen, who began his career as a mechanical engineer and who says fixing things is in his blood. “While costs have roughly doubled, the care has gone down dramatically.”

Working in that environment, PPG set out to find a way to help navigate the costly and confusing world of healthcare insurance and employee benefits by finding ways to best take advantage of options that many plans offer but are under-utilized. They also work to find new options to fill gaps in coverage. PPG has assembled a small but mighty team of experts from inside the healthcare industry and outside the insurance arena to put their ideas into action recently hiring healthcare executive veteran Debra Willis, human resource expert Susan Keeton and corporate wellness program developer Melanie Eads.

“We say we’re worksite benefit specialists but really we are strategists,” Millen said. “We strategize ways to use other lines of coverage and solutions that are non-insurance related to help solve problems for small businesses and employers.”

Susan Keeton joined PPG in January after spending 30 years in corporate human resources with such multi-location companies as Heilig-Meyers Furniture, AMF Bowling, and AVAIL Vapor.

“I bring to the table the employer perspective, I’ve been on the other side of the table for 30 years — meeting with brokers, assessing benefits, trying to understand what benefits would be best for employees and then helping employees trying to take advantage of them,” Keeton said. “What we are championing is the desire to help the employee healthcare and benefits system heal or become less broken. We don’t try to fix that health insurance piece, but we can help them choose a health insurance plan that is going to have the products their employees need and find products from other carriers that are bridging the gap.”

The idea of bridging the gap in insurance plans is one of PPG’s best hacks. Millen said he has spent the last eight years perfecting this plan to make sure employers know that they can afford to provide employees with the benefit of having zero deductible or zero co-pay options in their healthcare plan. In fact, Millen said this can often save employers money.

Melanie Eads, who joined PPG sales and marketing team this year, spent 19 years creating corporate wellness programs for companies such as American Family Fitness to increase productivity and decreasing workers comp. She said she sees the employers who are willing to delve deeper into their options and find fixes to create more comprehensive benefits as the heroes.

“I see the business owners as the hero because they’re the ones who have to put the effort in and make the decision to say, ‘Yes, I’m going to do this for my employees and my business. My employees matter.’”

Eads said the “hacking” she is doing is often just helping explain things better to clients and employees who may never have stopped to consider their benefits much beyond medical insurance and what their co-pay and monthly out-of-pocket costs might be. In fact, she said as an employee herself, no one ever explained to her how much pay-check protection or disability insurance she should have if she ever got sick or could not work.

“Employees need someone to sit down with them and say, ‘How long would you be able to go without a paycheck if you were sick or something happened?’” Eads said. “We offer ways to engage employees with their benefits 1-on-1 but also we create campaigns to help employees learn about products and to sign up for those products.”

“We take what they have and hack those benefits to be better for the company and better for employees,” she said, citing examples of building legal services, identity theft, zero-dollar telemedicine copay into benefit programs while keeping costs down for business owners. “We are uniquely positioned to be able to help them.”

Keeton described what PPG’s mission is when it comes to educating both employees and employers about benefits packages and bringing a more personal touch to the vague world of healthcare and employee benefits.

“The passion that drives me is helping companies take best advantage of their human capital and that means being able to attract and retain the best quality employees and giving those employees all of the tools, they need to be successful.”