D CEO

Consumer Direction

Compass Professional Health Services helps consumers navigate the stormy waters of co-pays, prescriptions and health insurance. (2013)

 

By Charlotte Huff

Dr. Eric Bricker co-founded Compass Professional Health Services in 2007 amid the olden days of health insurance, when co-pays of $20 and $50 were common and employees lacked much incentive to review their insurance bills.

The chief medical officer, who launched Compass with co-founder Cliff Sentell and one other employee, made cold calls and attended benefits meetings, trying to persuade employers that they needed concierge-style support to help employees become better medical shoppers. They landed few clients, about a dozen in the first two years, and thought, “Are we barking up the wrong tree?’”

Then high-deductible plans picked up traction, rising from 7 percent of employers in 2009 to 19 percent in 2013. By 2014, 22 percent of large employers plan to offer their workers only a high-deductible health policy, typically paired with a savings vehicle such as a health savings account, according to the National Business Group on Health’s annual survey. But corporate benefits managers have learned firsthand that the high-deductible transition can be “kind of messy” if employees aren’t first taught to become more discerning about the cost and quality of treatment before deductibles jump from $500 to $2,000-plus seemingly overnight, Bricker says.

“There can be angry employees, angry spouses,” he says. “It can be the executives themselves.”

Compass charges a flat $5 monthly per employee for most services, assigning each employer a “health pro” who handles a myriad of medical system headaches. Need a dermatologist who accepts new patients? Want to price shop knee replacement surgery at several local hospitals? Head to Compass.

“Sometimes it’s just a matter of putting the bug in the doctor’s ear, because the doctor doesn’t realize what the cost is [for the patient],” Bricker says. One success story involved slashing an employee’s prescription bills from $125 each month to just $12.

Compass, part of an increasingly crowded health pricing marketplace, was “visionary” about anticipating the need for such employee support as out-of-pocket costs increase, says Marianne Fazen, executive director of the Dallas-Fort Worth Business Group on Health.

“They saw ahead what the landscape was, what the trends were, and anticipated this coming, which they were right on,” she says. “Get in early and get the business.”

By late summer, the Oak Lawn Ave.-based company employed 214 people and counting, serving a roster of nearly 1300 employer clients, including about 300 in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Bricker anticipates 2013 revenue to reach $25 million, roughly double last year’s.

Bricker and his two co-founders—Scott Schoenvogel later took the role of chief executive officer—still assume a minimalist corporate footprint, only ramping up sales and marketing staff this year. Compass has no public-relations contact, so Bricker answers media queries personally in rapid-fire style, in line with his fast-talking demeanor.

All under age 40, the three founders have been building their young families along with their health concierge company.  In late August, the arrival of Bricker’s third child was only several days away, adding another health care consumer to the Compass community.