Meet Heidi Rasmussen: Life Has Other Plans
The expression, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans,” could be the summary of Heidi Rasmussen’s life and business.
Heidi is the Co-Founder & COO of freshbenies, a company that helps employers, employees and individuals add non-insurance benefits to their suite of healthcare services. From telehealth to pet health services and healthcare advocacy, freshbenies works to help clients fill in the gaps and provide services at a fraction of the cost of big budget benefit packages.
“We offer non-insurance services, bundled together in one experience for employers,” explained Heidi. “We work with 16 different companies to get benefits, but it’s one experience for the member and the employer. All the services help with today’s health plans, whether you have insurance or not. Members can call a doctor 24/7, get prescriptions over the phone …. We have telehealth, behavioral telehealth, advocacy (a service that helps employees find providers, get actual costs before a service, explain benefits to employees, and negotiate bills), dental savings, vision savings, prescription savings, identity theft protection, legal savings, pet telehealth, pet savings, and even behavioral help with pets. As of today, we’ve saved our clients over $80 million in healthcare costs.”
But Heidi didn’t start on this path of the insurance add-on business. She grew up in Seattle and is strongly guided by her Christian faith, which she found at a young age. She started working in JC Penney stores while in school and her big goal was to become a “gold badge manager.” She hit that goal at age 23 and realized she should set new aspirations. She began to climb the JCP corporate ladder and was relocated to the company’s Plano home office campus.
Always career-focused and not really wanting kids, Heidi tried her hand at online dating in her late 20s. “I went on a lot of dates and met a bunch of Mr. Wrongs,” Heidi said. She was very reluctant when one of her Seattle friends tried to set up her up with a Canadian guy named Reid. The Canuck was going to be in Dallas for a conference, so Heidi and Reid agreed to meet for a brief, very non-committal lunch.
“We both thought it was weird, but our friend made us,” Heidi recalls. “She was so right. Reid gave me only an hour. We hit it off immediately. All of a sudden his calendar opened up and we met three times that week.”
A long distance relationship started, and the two talked about life goals and locations. Reid has a health administration degree and knew the public health care system in Canada. He didn’t want to work in government for life, so he started learning about U.S. health care. When he and Heidi decided to get married and live in Dallas, his dual experience created a business idea. “He knows both health systems – public and private. He began to come across savings networks and thought it would help people if we could pull them all together in one experience. I was trying to help him communicate it and start marketing. ”
This was against a backdrop of skyrocketing out-of-pocket healthcare costs and the upcoming Affordable Care Act. Over a weekend, Reid agreed to start his own company. Heidi continued to be the “stable earner” with her JCP job while Reid built the company. “Then, after 27 years with JC Penney, I lost my job as a vice-president,” Heidi said. “Reid and I decided to go ‘all in’ in 2012. That’s when we launched under freshbenies and made it member-focused instead of exclusively corporate-packaged. We work with companies and 95% of our business comes from employers purchasing benefits for their employees. Only 1% is direct to individual customers.”
Within just months, the company was doing well. It hit the Inc 5000 four years in a row, won two health value awards, and earned two Dallas100 awards. Heidi joined EO Dallas in January 2019. Things have continued to grow and change in the business and in healthcare.
“Healthcare costs are going to continue to skyrocket,” Heidi predicted. “For us, telehealth is going to start getting used in more situations. Virtual will be used for primary care, physical therapy, dentistry, behavioral and mental health, even lab work. We’re hearing about apps under development that can take heart rate, blood pressure and more.” This means freshbenies is well positioned to be an asset to employees and individuals in the industry.
“We’re always looking for the next services people are going to need. We want to be the provider people need. There is so much that could be missing in corporate benefit packages. For example, restaurants offer benefits, but many employees don’t take them because of cost or the transitory nature of the business. But employers need people to show up to work. So a benefit that provides a doctor visit over the phone could help bring people back in.”
freshbenies also takes care of people’s pets. As “fur babies” are considered part of the family for many pet owners, and health options and costs have grown exponentially even for animals, pet health is a key benefit. freshbenies even has pet care savings, as well as on-call veterinarian telehealth for pets.
In her personal life, Heidi loves travel and movies. She is very active in her church and her faith. Without being “preachy,” Heidi tries to be an example for her faith, showing people rather than telling them.
As Heidi looks to 2021, she realizes she’s in an industry that can truly help people. She looks forward to the challenge.