Exploring BPI’s Options in the Cannabis Space – S1 E6

Dominic discusses BPI’s three carriers who work in the cannabis space: Aetna, Delta Dental of Michigan and Kansas City Life! Amy Angotti-Bilbo from KCL drops in to discuss not only the benefits they can place in cannabis groups but also a brief history of Kansas City Life and how they work here in Michigan. There are not many carriers who play in the space so this is one episode you don’t want to miss!

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Hey everybody, Dominic Siciliano here for Season 1, Episode 6 of the What’s the Benefit podcast. In today’s episode, we’re going to interview Amy Angotti-Bilbo who’s been a partner of ours for a long, long time. She is our Kansas City Life rep and Amy’s going to talk about Kansas City Life but she’s also going to talk about the most important thing that we wanted to highlight in today’s talk, the cannabis space. So, cannabis in Michigan has become a bigger market. We get quotes monthly, daily. And you as agents don’t have a lot of options. We interviewed KCL today because the life and disability side has been the biggest challenge. On the medical side, we offer Aetna in that space. So that’s great.

And Aetna offers all their medical plans. So you can absolutely write Aetna in that space and I encourage it because what a great– most of the time the cases that we quote are very healthy and as you know, with that underwritten space side, I feel like we can be very, very competitive, especially like that, maybe 10 through 100 space, please consider Aetna on that side.

They have the dental and vision too. So if you wanted to bundle that, you get a little discounting and of course Delta Dental is in the cannabis space. No problems there. They do the dental and the VSP. Um, so at BPI, what we say when we talk about cannabis is we have Aetna, Delta, and Kansas City Life.

Amy and I, um, and Lena, gosh, Amy started with us in 2012, she gave us an opportunity. She and Telva Parker, who is still there at KCL, Lena and I have really truly grown up. They’re one of those carriers that have just been partners with us the whole time. Many of you in our audience work with them all the time too. I think their claim to fame is– Just like our other carriers in this space, you know, the Delta side, especially it’s just easy service. So, we’re really proud because many of you don’t have options in this side, we know it incredibly well, and we do have options for you. So I just encourage you to give us a shot on anything related to that cannabis space. If you want to talk to me or Amy or our Delta reps, or even our Aetna reps about this side—learn more about it—just email me. I’ll put my email in the description, but beyond that, thank you so much. I hope you’re having a wonderful winter and with that, welcome Amy.

Thank you for having me. I’m very excited to be on today. 

And go Chiefs, right?

That’s right! 

Which a bunch of our audience will probably not appreciate. Cause most folks here are Lions fans and never have forgiven me for leaving Lions Nation and joining Chiefs Nation, but that’s okay That’s a whole ‘nother podcast. But everyone, Amy—as I mentioned in my intro—this is Amy Angotti-Bilbo. Amy and I have known each other for longer than we’ve worked together. Amy, you may not remember this but you pitched my mother at Agent Alliance Corporation to add Kansas City Life… That must have been 14 years ago. You and I met with her and we had worked with Companion. Do you remember that at all?

Yes, I do!

Oh, you do remember that?

I remember that vividly. I remember your mother. Yes.

Yeah, she was quite, quite a dynamo. But, um, we joined forces with you guys right away after BPI started. We started in June 2012, so I think it might have been that fall, fall of 2012. Been a great relationship ever since. Can you talk about your carrier? We’re going to talk about the cannabis business today and how you guys actually will write that business and we’ve done business there and we want more of it. But do you mind just talking about Kansas City Life for those who don’t know who KCL is? Why you and I have had such great success in Michigan?

So Kansas City Life has been in business since 1895 and the group department’s been around since 1975, so well over 50 years. I always describe Kansas City Life as a boutique carrier specializing in ancillary benefits: large enough to compete, small enough to care. We offer Midwest hospitality with excellent customer service and modern day technology through our billion client portal, obviously a one bill for all lines. And I’ve been with Kansas City Life–  I’ve been in the industry 23 years. I started with Kansas City Life back in 2001. I had randomly run into the insurance business and Steve hired me. And, I started out as a coordinator learning the industry and then went into being a rep in 2004 and started doing Michigan in 2004, which was awesome. We did a lot of Detroit. And anyway, throughout my tenure at Kansas City Life, I’ve actually left them twice. And, uh, what I did learn is, obviously, Kansas City Life is a great carrier, we’re very easy to do business with, it’s easy to fix, uh, glitch, so there is not a lot of chains going up the ladder, so if I need to speak with a VP or an AVP, I have their ear immediately. And with other carriers, obviously, you don’t always have that access right away.

And I think that your claim to fame, Amy, that, you know, the reason why you and I have had so much success over these 12 years with Lena and obviously your team as well is, you made relationships with agents in Michigan. When agents have issues, they contact me, they contact Lena, they contact you. 

Yes. 

And it’s, it’s pretty weird. You always say you’re big enough to compete strong, small enough to care. I know it’s kind of a cliche, but you just get stuff done. It’s just, it’s relationship. It’s getting stuff done and it’s great rates. That’s how I describe you all. And the agents who do a lot of business with you are very loyal to both you and to KCL. So you probably wouldn’t say that out loud, but I’m just going to put that plug. KCL does all lines (so everyone on the podcast knows), so we could do from the core stuff from dental life, vision, STD, LTD, valve life, and then the CI and accident… Correct me if I’m wrong, do we have both CI and accident now?

Yes. 

Oh yeah, we do, great. 

On an employer paid and voluntary basis, yes. 

And all those lines are okay with cannabis, right? 

Correct. 

In the cannabis space? 

We can write all lines. 

Okay, when we’re writing cannabis, are the things to consider– Obviously it’s an interesting market and you and I have found that we’ll quote like a 12 one and that’ll be a two one, that’ll be a four one. So sometimes it’s just getting them like kind of locked down. That’s just the business. It is, but– What questions do we need to answer? Because there are certain questions that you [agents] all need to know before you’ll do it.

Correct. And we try to send that out. Obviously, we want to try to send that out to as many brokers as possible. That way they have it when they’re submitting the RFP, but we want to make sure that the group has been in business for at least one year. So the LLC has been– The group has been doing business for one year. We want to make sure they have a commercial banking account, not a private banking account. So we don’t want the checks coming from the owner, we want them coming from the company itself. We ask what they’re doing, which is kind of funny because obviously we know there’s smoking, growing, uh, bud tend. I mean, they’re doing all of it. So we ask what they’re doing and then we want to make sure that they’re all W2 employees. We do not want 1099. Everybody needs to be W2. So those are the four things we look for. Which we found is pretty simple. 

Yeah, it’s very simple. And Joel in my office knows to ask that stuff when we get the RFPs. And really, uh, like, don’t think of Kansas City Life because they’re a relatively smaller carrier… Don’t think of them that they cannot do large market. Amy and I have written some really sizable cases in the cannabis space. Why are you guys okay with it? You know, a lot of times in the market in Michigan, the life and DI carriers, some of them were in that space and got out. What is your corporate stance? It just never was a big deal? You never have a specific stancce, or did you guys make a decision to be in that space?

They just made a decision to be in the space.

They’re okay with it.

There wasn’t a whole lot of talk. It was just like, we are going to write cannabis. So jokingly, I said, okay, let’s roll with it. Let’s do this while we can do it. And we’re continuing to do it. And it’s been profitable. We haven’t had issues with it. We actually write quite a bit of business, cannabis business, out of Michigan. We write a quite a bit of business in the, I want to say like in the Arizona market, throughout a large part of the Midwest, we write a lot of cannabis.

Sure. You know, we’re going to bounce back and forth. It’s just the nature of my personality. Um, if agents are wondering, okay, cool, KCL writes the cannabis space. You gave a little bit of background with you and with KCL. You kind of left, you came back. Can you talk about rating so they’re comfortable there? Our rating, and then our dental network, vision network, some of the stuff that kind of gives people a little bit more like, okay, this is real. This is a real viable option.

Sure. So well, we’re an A minus by A and best. I’ve kind of mentioned how we’ve been around since 1975. 

A life insurance carrier since 1895, which is wild. A long, long time. So the rating’s really good: A minus. On the dental network…So if we’re writing dental in those cases, you could compete. So if we could talk a little bit about that…

Sure. So on the dental, we market as the Kansas City Life Dental Alliance. Very robust. We obviously— It’s a passive PPO, so they can go to their dentist of choice. But many networks feed under that dental alliance, meaning Zealous, PPO USA… and Zealous acts as an umbrella, so it picks up other networks in rural neighborhoods, or rural areas, so many feed under that, and then we also have— I mentioned Denimax, Zealous, and PPO USA, and then again, many more networks that feed through that.

And we’ve not had an issue network-wise because most of the business we write is going to be 90th percentile out of network, right? That’s most of the stuff. Sometimes we’ll do Mac. That’s the most you’ll do is 90th, correct? You guys won’t do 95th or 99th? 

Yes. We are looking to increase. We are looking to bump that up this year. I don’t know if that will happen, but I can always do reports. We can do disruption reports, geo access reports. We can do a network 360 report that will compare us to four or five other networks around so they can kind of see how we stack up, which is great. Sometimes we can also do a top 10 UCR chart.

So for the client or the broker that wants to see how we pay out a network, I’m happy to give the top 10 UCR codes, or if there’s other specific codes that we need to give to them. I’m happy we can give that information out. So the more information obviously that we can provide to the broker and the client to make them feel comfortable with us, I’m happy to do it. We just need to know what they need. 

And what I want the audience to hear is that with Amy— When you write a case with BPI, you’re getting Amy too. She is going to be right there alongside me and my team. Sometimes she’ll just take the lead and you’re talking with Amy from start to finish in terms of quoting, going back and forth. Hey, Amy, can you get me this and that? You and I have worked together for 12 years and obviously have a great relationship and it’s totally fine. Um, on the KCL dental piece, very flexible contracts. So you have the rollover, you know, the annual rollover max, that’s kind of a thing you’ve done the whole time we’ve done business together. Most of the time, I think you accommodate what people want out of a dental contract. Anything that you wanted to add in terms of dental contract flexibility, Amy? The rollover comes to mind for me. But, you could go four tier, three tier…

Four tier, three tier, two tier. We can do a high low. Obviously, endoparal, oral surgery, all those can be switched out of type two, type three. We can go up to a 5,000 max. So we have flexible max. Obviously, we’re not quoting 5,000 max all the time, but we can go up to a 5,000 max. But again, super flexible contracts. So if we need to look at cleanings or crowns, uh, all those.

Amy could get most things done as we need them, so we can do voluntary or contributory, no problem there. And the two through nine market, it is a trust product. We do that here at the office. But most of the cannabis stuff is larger. On the vision side, you want to talk about kind of what you could do there in the vision stuff in terms of networks? 

We have VSP, which is the choice network and we also have Davis Vision. Typically in Michigan, we are quoting VSP only, however, we can write VSP and Davis together. It would not be on one bill, they would have to be separate bills, but we can do VSP and Davis together. They would just need to meet participation. So depending on if you have a large manufacturing firm, um, obviously car industry… Depending on what the industry would be, sometimes it makes sense to have both, but right now, what we are quoting the most of in Michigan and throughout the country is obviously VSP with that choice network.

But the biggest deal that we’re getting the most inquiries, honestly, and it’s really upmarket is life and disability, uh, vow life in that space. That just seems, Amy, what we’re getting from agents that we’ve really never done business with, which is super exciting. So, I mean, obviously, Kansas City Life has the ability to package most of the time. We find that in the cannabis space that the groups either have Blue Dental or Delta Dental and then they’re coming to us for the life and so we could package all of it. But we absolutely are a great viable option on the life and disability side. Very flexible, we could do voluntary. Typically we need 25 to 30, right, on the voluntary side, Amy, disability and life? 

Yeah, typically. Obviously if it’s employer paid life we’re either in a… If it’s contributory, we want 75 participation, if it’s 100 percent employer paid, we’re wanting 100 percent participation. On the voluntary life, we’re asking for 20 percent and since the typical groups in that 20+ range, uh, we’re going to ask for 10 lives enrolled or 20 percent participation, the greater up. And then on the disability side, obviously we can write it on the employer paid or a voluntary basis. And on the disability, we’re asking for 25 percent participation or 10 lives.

And we’re doing pretty standard stuff on the STD, LTD, when it comes to this market, the cannabis, it’s not like we’re going crazy on ox, we’re doing two year on ox… we’re doing very simple stuff, but what is key is Kansas City Life does have an EDI feed set up with Navigator. So, BPI is, you know, was an EASE agency for a long time and obviously with the transition we’re writing most of our stuff on Navigator. So if you’re in that cannabis space and you need a home for your ancillary with KCL and BPI, we will build that Navigator or help you build it or help you with connections as a complimentary service. Again, there’s just not that many options in Michigan and I think the most important thing that I want the whole audience to understand is, from a service perspective— And we’re hearing this a lot, Amy, when you and I look at these cases is these agents are coming from one specific carrier and the agents are like, get us out of here and we’re like the second option. I think we’re the best option, but from a service perspective, the whole audience, if you’re listening to this, understand that you are getting Amy. Amy and I have been doing business a long, long time. As you mentioned, Amy, you left and you came back. Why did you do that? Like, why did you go to other carriers? Maybe you’re a young person wanting to explore, but what brought you back? I think this is important. 

Sure. And it’s good. Obviously, you learn the grass isn’t always greener. But the two carriers I worked with, I learned a lot from, but ultimately I love the way Kansas City Life operates. Some of the key things is that obviously I have direct contact to our AVP, to our VP. Uh, once a group is sold, obviously it’s assigned to one administrator. We have eight administrators that handle our block of business and I have great relationships with all eight administrators. They have tenure. I mean, I think we have a new person, but the average tenure of a Kansas City Life employee is about 15 years. And so we have all that experience there and being able to work directly with an underwriter, the underwriting team. Obviously, Dominic, you have access. The broker has access to the underwriter. We can get on a call. You know, we’re not dealing East Coast – West Coast. We’re in the Midwest. I mean, they’re a call away. They’re right down from my office. 

And you have 20 years of experience there. And 20 years of relationships and BPI has 12 years of experience in relationships. And it never needs to really go back, but if I have to, on behalf of the agent, we can call too. 

Absolutely. 

It is a very personal approach and from a service perspective, just very, very good. 

Another good point actually to make is that they also have, I also obviously have an account coordinator, a sales coordinator who works directly with me, so if the broker or can’t get ahold of you, they also have the coordinator to work with and the coordinator is very involved in the RFP process, very involved in the sold case process. I mean, they’re doing the majority of that. That was the other piece that I have my person to work with me. That definitely helps where I didn’t have that at other carriers. And just the way that we work, again, being assigned when the client is written, they’re assigned to that person. They have their email address, their phone number. So it’s just direct points of contact to talk to people and you’re not getting a 1-800 number and getting thrown into a box and waiting for, you know, waiting online, sending a voicemail, not getting a call back.

Right.

So it’s really our service model. It does stand out and it does work. And I do believe in it. Um, obviously every carrier has its niche and glitch, but again, it’s how quickly you can get something fixed and resolved. And I think with Kansas City Life, since I know who’s there and who to go to, we’re getting things done left and right.

That is correct. Yeah. And with that cannabis market, those of you who worked in it, sometimes you need to turn on a dime and sometimes they’re not the most organized. So to have a carrier that’s a little bit more flexible that can work with you, you could have a personal line of communication, I think that’s pretty powerful. So Amy also, in addition, when I talked about the Chiefs earlier— Obviously the 12 years, you write a lot of business… You might kind of end up, you know, do a little fly in, check out the office, go to a Chief’s game. You never know, you never know!

That’s right! We like to bring people in, we love to show our home office off, we love to take people to the games. 

Yeah. And it’s a great city. And the games are pretty phenomenal. So I really appreciate it. That’s the time I wanted to spend with you today. If you like what you hear from Amy and you want to get to know her better, by all means. You have my contact information on the podcast. Email me. I’ll get you in touch with Amy. She comes in every quarter, or two or three times this year. She can meet with you face-to-face or virtually, obviously, run some quotes, see what we got and give it a shot. Those of you who are listening who know Amy, we don’t mean to just talk about cannabis. Kansas City Life’s been a great carrier for us. We write a lot of business with them in all size markets and really all niches too, SAC coach, she’s going to follow up and get you great rates. And we have agencies who really, truly keep KCL as like their little arrow that a lot of agencies don’t have. So they’re going to be mad at us, Amy, for getting the best kept secret out there. 

Kansas City Life loves Michigan! Michigan is our top state, so we are very Michigan loyal.

It’s been really good. So thank you so much for taking the time today. For all those in the audience, I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Thank you.

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Exploring BPI’s Options in the Cannabis Space – S1 E6

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Dominic Siciliano

President, Agent Consultant

Over his 18 years in the benefits business Dominic has worked in the Medicare Advantage, small group Blue Cross medical, ancillary GA and large group benefit admin space here in Michigan. His parents and biggest influences, Patricia Siciliano and John McClain, instilled in him the key pillar to GA benefits business—relationships with agents and carriers. Dominic has served as the NABIP West Michigan President twice. He’s run the golf outing several years going and he served at the Legislative Co Chair for the State Board during the passing of PPACA. His Friday morning classes, Employee Benefits 101, is highly regarded in the industry as a practical, real world introduction to the business for new folks. In short, he is passionate about our business and about seeing agents succeed. 

Dominic loves golf and basketball but as he gets older, golf more. He’s a Western grad but a State fan! He most enjoys spending time with wife Janelle and four children outdoors and Up North! From the very early days of BPI when it was just him and Lena in a tiny little office, he hasn’t changed, it’s about getting the job done for agents.