Five years of people-friendly benefits & counting

By Rob Butler, Founder

rob butler, maestro health

The decision to start Maestro Health and make employee health and benefits people-friendly again was driven by several factors: to help simplify healthcare for everyone involved; to enhance the experience of receiving care; to give employer HR teams the best possible support and help them do right by their employees; to bring more transparency to the benefits process so that employer and employee actually understand what they are paying for. What a concept, right?

So, we set out to create the most experienced employee health and benefits startup by hiring and acquiring industry experts who share a mission to make employee health and benefits people-friendly again. Five years, four locations and an acquisition by AXA later – here we are.

Along our journey of simplifying and personalizing how employees shop, enroll and live with their benefits, we have remained open to finding the best ways to bring this vision to life. We’ve doubled down on the technology. We’re enhancing our service delivery model to further our tech-meets-service approach. We’ve brought on the most talented and driven people to tell us what we’re doing right and when we’re making mistakes. We’ve stayed committed to the transformation of the U.S. healthcare market. And we don’t plan on stopping.

The Next Generation of Healthcare

I’ve said this repeatedly and I’ll say it again: the U.S. healthcare industry has not only reached its tipping point – its already in the transition stage. While it’s the largest healthcare market in the world, it is plagued by inefficiency, high costs and misaligned incentives. It’s a trillion dollar industry, yet the U.S. has some of the worst health outcomes when compared to other high-income nations. It’s not a sustainable pattern and a change is well overdue. 

Last year we took a huge step forward in our strategy to transform healthcare in the U.S. by joining forces with AXA, a worldwide insurance leader. AXA chose to partner with us to tackle the broken U.S. healthcare system because they found we are truly unlike any other offering on the market. We bring a deep knowledge of the healthcare industry and share our passion to empower people to reduce their healthcare costs while maintaining or improving outcomes.

This partnership enables us to bring new products and services to market faster; offerings designed to further reduce healthcare costs and improve engagement for constituents across the entire continuum of care. With AXA’s global capabilities and knowledge of providing different types of insurance and services across borders, we view this move as a gateway to global health benefits technology.

A Vision for the Future

At times, it feels like the number of companies, big and small, entering the healthcare market is endless. They all claim to have the magic recipe for solving the broken industry. A real solution is going to come from a company whose sole goal is to lower healthcare costs and put the consumer first – not a company that is adding another offering to its roster to impress shareholders.

Truly changing the U.S. healthcare market will be a challenge. It requires an integrated, modern approach, innovative technology and an open mind about different care models, such as modern self-funded solutions that create healthcare ecosystems. That’s what we’ve been spending the past five years building at Maestro Health and will continue to build in an aim to put the control of the healthcare industry back in the hands of consumers. 

I would be remiss if I did not end with this: People are at the core of what we do. Our Maestronites are the reason we are successful, and the reason our mission transcends our multiple office locations. As we move forward in our fifth year as a unified brand, I feel fortunate to be a part of this team.

Closing Out Professional Wellness Month with Some Totally Not Boring Tips


Sure, June marks the start of summer. But June is also Professional Wellness Month. Sounds boring, but it doesn’t have to be. That’s why we had a quick mCHAT with our totally not boring CHRO Sheryl Simmons and asked her to share some practical tips you and your employees can use to improve health and wellness – not just this month but all year long.

What do you think is the most valuable takeaway for Professional Wellness Month?

First and foremost, don’t get hung up on the outdated ways people used to look at wellness – think instead about your employees’ overall wellbeing. Wellbeing efforts should address the person as a whole, including their physical, emotional, social and financial status. Because let’s face it, things like stress levels can have just as big of an impact on your health as the number of steps you take in a day.

What are some tips HR professionals can share with their employees to help them maintain their health and wellness while at work?

  • Encourage employees to get away from their desks to enjoy their lunch. Reiterate that it’s okay to sit outside, in the office kitchen or to grab a conference room with co-workers. The main goal is for them to get away from their desks, give their eyes a break from the screen and to give their minds a chance to rest.

  • Remind employees to drink lots of water throughout the day, especially in the hot summer months. They should shoot for half their weight in ounces. Take it a step further and start an office water challenge with a prize for the employee who guzzles the most H2O (keeping in mind the safety risks of over-consumption).

  • Limit caffeine intake. This is a tough one for me since my blood type is French Roast. However, I try to drink one glass of water for every cup of coffee I drink. This can also work for soda drinkers.

  • Encourage your employees to take small breaks throughout the day, get up and stretch or take a quick walk. This will help with both physical and mental health.

How can HR make sure to educate employees about what they should do to stay healthy?

Above all, it’s essential that employees are able to read and understand their health benefits. If you are looking for a quick and easy way to help them boost their understanding of insurance basics, send them to the FAIR Health Consumer site. It’s an independent, non-profit organization providing fair and neutral healthcare information including things like a cost estimator and information to help better understand your healthcare bill.

What are some resources HR professionals can share with employees who are looking to improve their physical health?


Lifting the veil on the healthcare experience

By Rob Butler, Founder, Maestro Health


It is official. The healthcare industry has reached its tipping point. There are many differing opinions per when it actually happened, but I’m not sure if it matters. What does matter is: what happens now. 

What will happen first is what you have already seen. Industry employer giants like Amazon, Apple and Comcast will repeatedly show up in the headlines as employers seek to take matters into their own hands – driven by the underlying unsustainable economics of healthcare costs that are bludgeoning their balance sheets.

The truth is, employers don’t need to wait for the "Amazons" to create new healthcare companies in order to lower their healthcare costs and help their employees get healthier. Employers just simply need a way to lift the veil on the healthcare experience, so they can understand what they’re paying for and provide their employees with the support they need.

This is already happening and it’s occurring rapidly. The egregious cost practices plaguing the system will slowly be uncovered and years from now, the true costs of healthcare will be a couple of iPhone swipes away. But that alone will not solve the problem. Consumers will need to be taught how to navigate the system and how to “buy” healthcare. The United States is one of the leading nations in the world when it comes to consuming goods, but they will need to be “taught” how to consume healthcare properly and efficiently for this to work.

That means communication has to be simplified and presented in a modern fashion verses the confusion that has traditionally aided and abetted the situation. For example, an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) cannot require a PHD education to be able to discern and understand. In-network and out-of-network discrepancies must go away. Employers will need less vendors and instead choose more comprehensive platforms that can handle the bulk of their needs.  

Employees need support to make their way through the healthcare maze.
As employers move to more comprehensive solutions that simplify and lower costs, there is no reason to sacrifice the employee experience. There are people-friendly solutions emerging in the market that help both the employers and their respective employees become better consumers of healthcare.

Vendors have gotten smarter and are offering people-friendly models that provide employees with a transparent experience, so they can understand what to expect every step of the way. One example of this is a people-friendly reference-based pricing model, which includes negotiating pricing on the behalf of an employee and notifying them of the best price option for the best quality of care, prior to services being rendered.

A people-friendly pricing model is designed to provide the support and advocacy required to prevent any financial or legal harm to the employer or employee. In the end, this new model helps employees understand the cost of care – making them better consumers of healthcare.

It’s an exciting time to be in the healthcare industry. Issues like the lack of transparency and support that have been creating headaches for far too long, for everyone, are finally being corrected with innovative solutions. If you are headed to HLTH next week, you’re likely to catch a peek at many of the latest innovative healthcare solutions. You can also catch me at HLTH. I’ll be a part of the panel discussion on “Employers: Owning the Employee Experience” on Monday, May 7th at 3:40 pm PT.

Check out everything else going on at HLTH here.  

The AXA Acquisition: Behind the scenes

By Rob Butler, Founder

Rob butler, maestro health

As you may know by now, Maestro Health has been acquired by AXA. It’s been hard to keep the news to myself especially when you take pride in leading a company with an open book-type culture. So, when you know your company is about to take a huge next step in their mission to transform the U.S. healthcare industry, yet you’re unable to share your excitement until the appropriate moment, it’s tough. So, now that I’m able to, I’d like to share the behind scenes events that has led to this momentous occasion for Maestro Health.

As a privately-owned company, acquisition was always an inevitable outcome.  However, this happened way before anyone imagined it, and frankly, fell into our lap. This was not in our plans, nor was it on our radar. I actually took the first meeting with AXA last spring on a recommendation from a friend. Since that meeting, a pretty interesting chain of events occurred – one that culminated in Maestro Health being acquired by a French company that happens to be the largest insurance company in the world ($100 billion in annual revenue, in euros, that is).

Wow. Just writing that number is a bit mind boggling.
It’s kind of cool to think that after only four short years since its founding, Maestro Health is now part of the AXA family— an international company that operates in 64 countries and has over 1mm clients. What an opportunity for both our employees and clients.  

Acquisitions by large companies like this don’t always feature great outcomes for all the key parties such as clients, employees and management teams. Many times, it will be a good thing for some of the key constituents, but rarely do all the parties have favorable outcomes. We CEOs stand up in front of our employees, clients and partners and ensure them that all will be OK, and sometimes it is – but, frankly, sometimes it’s not. 

This one just made too much sense to say no.
Imagine. If you were in my shoes and sat down over the course of three months and discovered the 42nd most recognizable brand in the world shared the same vision, strategy, culture and aspirations as we do – to ultimately transform the U.S. healthcare market by simplifying the experience, lowering costs and empowering consumers—or what we call “making health and benefits people-friendly again.” And then, to top it off, you uncovered they were seeking to enter the U.S. market with a continuum of care model that truly empowers consumers in making the right healthcare decisions—exactly what we have. If you are like me, when I first heard it, I didn’t believe it. So, I listened closer. And it got better. They also recognized that the HR profession wasn’t meant for professionals to be bogged down in paperwork or disparate systems that left them no time to build teams or support their employees. In addition, they saw that the current system of health and benefits is not setup to truly empower employees (consumers) to lead healthier, happier and ultimately, better lives—inside and outside of the workplace. I was now thinking this could be very interesting. And then the final piece. They looked at our comprehensive platform, maestroEDGE™, and knew this was exactly what was needed to turn the U.S. healthcare industry upside down.

I must admit, even with all the proverbial stars aligning, I still just wasn’t sure. When I started Maestro Health, I did so by hiring and acquiring the most talented and driven people I could find who shared our vision and mission to make employee health and benefits people-friendly again. We built this company with a lot of long nights, hard work and determination—and have had a ton of fun along the way. I needed to make sure this partnership would be in the best interest of those wonderful people that have become my second family.

That’s when I knew for sure.
AXA has no team in the U.S. to run Maestro Health, nor any desire to do so. They insist we stay long-term and run the company. When I heard that, and fact checked it, I knew. Here was my chance to keep our team and employees together for a long time to come. That’s exactly what I was looking for and maybe the most important factor in considering an opportunity like this. There is so much we want to accomplish and keeping the team and employees together is vital to that success.

Besides our employees, clients win big too.
I’m thrilled that we will eventually have a breadth and depth of products and services that most others cannot provide – with the same people and same service teams our clients know and trust. And of course, going from the most experienced startup to now being a part of the 42nd largest brand in the world (and the number one global insurance for eight consecutive years) will provide even more reassurance to our clients that we have long-term financial viability dedicated to the long haul. Plus, being a standalone subsidiary ensures we won’t get lost or stifled with corporate bureaucracy and lose our entrepreneurial spirit, which our clients appreciate so much. We are going to get our cake and eat it too, which is pretty rare, in my experience.

Thomas Burberl, AXA CEO, visited the U.S. and invited me to sit down and talk. I’ve had the privilege of meeting several Fortune 500 CEOs. Thomas, by far, is the most genuine. He wants to make an impact in the U.S. and the lives of every healthcare consumer—and he is committed to doing so. He said he heard we had a great team (I’m biased, but yes, I believe we do), and he asked me if I would stay and run the business. I shook his hand on that day and promised to do just that. I intend to keep my promise.

This is going to be a fun ride.

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