“Too Much of Healthcare Is All About the Dollar”: Meet Rick Livesay, Nava Partner
Healthcare has been part of Rick Livesay’s DNA since day one. Coming from a family of doctors and nurses, Rick chose to pursue a career on the business side of healthcare. Through 25+ years in multiple realms of the healthcare marketplace — from pharmaceuticals, to nonprofit healthcare systems, to benefits consulting — he’s seen how medical care is bought, sold, and provided from all angles.
Now, as he joins Nava Benefits as Partner, Rick is poised to leverage his unique experience and expertise (and not to mention his tech savvy) to help Nava achieve our mission of providing high-quality, affordable healthcare to all Americans.
Looking back on your career, what are the most common issues you’ve observed in the healthcare system that may be hindering innovation or accessibility?
I’d say that many challenges we face in healthcare are a result of misaligned incentives. If you look at any aspect of the US healthcare system — whether it’s the hospitals, the physicians, the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance carriers or the brokers — everyone has a different motivation. And too much of healthcare is all about the dollar.
It’s something that’s followed me throughout my many roles in healthcare. When I was working in pharmaceuticals, I saw price gouging. In diagnostics, I saw over-testing. And now in the broker space, it’s a lack of fee transparency. I’ve seen what’s broken in our system from a number of angles, and it’s been a huge source of motivation in my career.
What made you decide that Nava Benefits was the right next step in your career?
Nava’s audacious goal of wanting to fix healthcare in America.
Brokers hold a lot of cards in our healthcare system. And employers are relying on them more and more. But brokers are too often biased in a way that doesn’t prioritize the employer or employees. That keeps the system broken.
Nava is challenging that status quo. Keeping that mission as our true north will drive us towards the innovation we need to empower and assist employers in building better benefits.
To be that salmon swimming upstream, wanting to do things differently — that’s what gets me excited to get up every day.
Brokers hold such a strong influence on our healthcare system, yet we think it goes largely unrecognized. To that end, what role do you think brokers can play in transforming healthcare?
I think many companies view brokers as this necessary conduit to access insurance, but not as a true strategic partner. They’ve lost sight of this true partnership where they feel like their broker is an extension of their team.
But I feel like Nava can really change that paradigm. We can show HR leaders that brokers don’t have to be the person they have to live with — we can be the person they can’t live without.
In your 25+ year career in healthcare & benefits, you’ve worked with employers both large and small. Now as a Nava Partner, you’ll play a role in bringing Fortune 500-level benefits to SMBs. Looking back on your experience with larger employers, if you were to give one piece of advice to SMBs looking to level up their benefits, what would it be?
Top-down narrative is a powerful thing — and it’s completely free. When leadership demonstrates the value of benefits, it can have a big impact on utilization.
Taking mental health as an example, a lot of people might be hesitant to pursue counseling. But if the C-Suite consciously makes an effort to destigmatize seeing a therapist or counselor by sharing their own story, employees listen and feel like they’re not alone.
Your background in healthcare & benefits has put you at the cutting edge of health-tech over the years. From your perspective, what is the biggest impact you’ve seen from these tech solutions, both for individual employers and the healthcare system?
I’ll share a personal story here. Wearables. My dad’s a big Apple guy. He wears his Apple Watch religiously. And it was because of the watch’s heart rate monitoring that he learned he had a heart murmur. That watch may have prevented him from having a heart attack.
That’s just one example of how health-tech can meet patients where they are to help them make better decisions in their day-to-day lives.
On a larger level, tech can help bring transparency to the grey areas around healthcare costs. Right now, most patients don’t know what treatment will cost, and most SMBs don’t know what certain benefits will cost.
That’s one thing that really attracted me to Nava — we’re building technology that provides unbiased, open-sourced access to the information HR leaders need to choose benefits.
If you had to describe your approach to client service with one song, movie, or book, what would it be?
I don’t sleep well at night until I know that my clients are taken care of. Whatever they need, I’ll come through for them, no matter what.
What do you hope to accomplish over the next five years at Nava?
I want to reimagine the role of the broker. I don’t want to be seen as just a vendor.
Ideally we would help create a custom menu for HR teams to serve up to their employees so that they can choose the benefits that matter to them and their families the most. Not just core benefits, but really bespoke offerings that employees value and that are competitively priced. Bespoke benefits should be the norm — not the exception.
I want HR leaders to see Nava, the brokerage firm itself, as a strategic partner who is truly unbiased, highly transparent, and has a true north: fixing this broken system, untangling the spaghetti, and bringing innovation to the HR leaders who need it.
Have a question for Rick? Reach out here.
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