HR Background Informs Health Insurance Broker’s Service

HR Background Informs Health Insurance Broker’s Service
Clients at The MultiCare Group benefit from licensed broker Michelle Kirkwood’s background in human resources. The experience has given her a unique perspective, especially when it comes to employer group policies.

Kirkwood first started in human resources around the age of 21 with Minor’s, a subsidiary of the Stouffers company in Ohio. She dealt with benefits and payroll and calls it her “springboard to everything.” In 1991, she moved to Nevada and started work with Caesars, first in human resources and then in labor relations. When Caesars changed hands, some former executives offered Kirkwood jobs in the years that followed. A benefits representative at one of those jobs talked her into transitioning into the insurance industry, so she joined Layne and Associates (eventually bought out by Brown and Brown) in 1998.

She moved back to Ohio for a short time but decided she missed Las Vegas and moved back in 2004. At Layne and Associates, she had met Patrick Casale, who had opened his own brokerage by the time she moved back, so she joined him as an account manager. Patrick Casale and Associates merged with The MultiCare Group in 2015, and now Kirkwood and Casale offer health insurance and other key benefits for employers, individuals and families nationally.

“We are cohesive here,” Kirkwood said. “We pride ourselves on staying up to date and challenging each other. We’re not afraid to speak up because, now more than ever, you have to be engaged.”

One of the ways Kirkwood stays engaged is to travel to Washington, D.C., thanks to some of the professional organizations with which she is involved, and meet with politicians to discuss issues important to the industry. She said she enjoys the opportunity because many politicians act on health insurance but have no idea how their actions affect the layperson, and she is able to provide information from her point of view as both a health broker and consumer.

She also is fighting hard for Nevada’s Association Health Plans (Chamber Plans). She testified this summer in front of the DC Health Link Commission, offering information about the benefits included in Association Health Plans.
Kirkwood offered advice for those seeking insurance coverage:

  • Be real about your personal situation because knowing what’s going on will help brokers determine which plan is going to best suit your needs.
  • Treat your Summary of Benefits Coverage like your Bible. Know what you have and what you don’t so you know what you do and do not need to pay for out of pocket. Also read and understand your Explanation of Benefits (EOB), which she considers your testament, as it details how your claim is processed and paid.
  • Understand your networks. Kirkwood explained that people often only see the premium of a plan and want what’s cheapest, but if a plan is $100 and doesn’t include your doctor of choice in network and you aren’t willing to switch doctors, you will end up paying more.

“It’s all about the education, that’s what it really comes down to,” she said. “I want you to ask questions because it’s not going to work for you if you don’t understand it.”

So Kirkwood makes it her mission to ensure people seeking life and health insurance from her always understand what they are getting. And that emphasis on education has gained her not only many clients, but a lot of friends.

“Michelle has exceptional knowledge, and that has helped her foster meaningful relationships with her clients,” Casale said. “She is a valued member of our team.”

Outside of work, Kirkwood is active, engaging in physical activity such as running and lifting weights six to seven times a week. She said she is proud of her son, who is a National Guardsman (soon-to-be active Army).

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