One day, Beverly Gossage’s mother showed up with a mountain of paperwork relating to health insurance for employees of the family plumbing firm. “Can you take a look at this?” she asked.
And that is how Beverly Gossage, who was pursuing her dream in education, found a new calling. Gossage now owns HSA Benefits Consulting, which helps clients find the right health insurance for them, is a Kansas State Senator, and is a nationally recognized authority on health insurance and healthcare policy.
She has testified before Congress, served as a health consultant for multiple organizations, including the Show-Me Institute, a free-market think tank in St. Louis, and advised her fellow agents as President of the Kansas Chapter of the National Association of Health Underwriters NAHU.
Gossage is a Kansas native. “I was born in Wichita, and neither of my parents went to college,” she recalls. “My mom left high school and attained her GED when I was a sophomore. She was one of 15 children, and the thought back then was, ‘you’re old enough, now go out and get a job.’ My dad was a car mechanic and worked two or three jobs to try to keep food on the table for our family of seven. Mom was a stay-at-home mom who took care of us and taught us to be frugal in our 2-bedroom house. We understood the value of hard work and caring for others.”
Beverly can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to be a teacher. “I believe it was from the age of four,” she says. “And I thought, ‘I’ll probably have to go to college to be a teacher and I need to figure out how to do that.’” To defray the cost of college, Beverly won scholarships and saved her money from various jobs she held starting at age ten when she sold her homemade pot holders door-to-door. She earned an Associate’s Degree from Fort Scott Community College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Central Missouri State University. She graduated in three years, magna cum laude, but felt she had failed because she was three points short of summa cum laude.
While still in college, Beverly Kastl married Robert Gossage, her childhood sweetheart, whom she had met at church and dated from the age of 15. She was 19 when they married. Beverly started teaching in Missouri shortly after her 21st birthday. After three years, they moved to Eudora, Kansas where she landed a position in Lawrence Public Schools. “My dad had started Kastl Plumbing in that area and knew a lot of builders and said if we came out that way, he would help us build a house. We did as much of the work ourselves as we could to keep costs down. It’s called sweat equity.” After the couple’s first child was a year old, Beverly decided that she wanted to take a break from teaching to raise her family, so she obtained a real estate broker’s license and formed Gossage Real Estate which would allow her to be with the children during the day and work most evenings and weekends when her husband could watch them. While in the real estate industry she welcomed three more children.
When they were old enough to attend school, she returned to teaching but later resigned to devote full time to homeschooling her fourth child who was severely dyslexic and language-delayed. She cleaned new construction housing to help with the family budget and would take Adam with her when he was in the grade-school years.
“Who came up with [employer-based insurance plans]? It simply doesn’t make any sense,” Gossage thought.
Along the way, while working with her son, Beverly discovered Sylvan Learning Centers, which provide personalized courses of instruction in basic studies. Later, Beverly was offered the position of Director of the Lawrence, KS Sylvan Learning Center and was promoted to the District Manager in Kansas and Missouri. She had been with Sylvan ten years when, on that fateful day, her mother arrived bearing a delicious pot of navy beans, cornbread, and that blizzard of papers that changed the course of Beverly’s career.
When she first undertook to help her mother, Gossage did extensive research—she was an educator after all—and became skeptical of employer-based insurance plans. “Who came up with this idea? It simply doesn’t make any sense,” Gossage thought. “Why doesn’t the employer pay salary and employees just buy their own policy, like we do auto insurance? Plus, I prefer the idea of giving less money to the insurance company, leaving them to cover catastrophic claims and letting employees keep more money in their pockets to pay for small claims and be better consumers of healthcare.”
In her research, she was immediately intrigued by Medical Savings Accounts, which had high deductibles along with low monthly premiums that were dramatically less costly than with regular policies, giving the owners savings to be used to pay for routine procedures out of their accounts that accrued. These plans were the precursor to Health Savings Accounts.
After Beverly helped her mother set up a consumer-driven group health plan for the family business, her sister Marilyn, a tax accountant, wanted assistance for her clients. Marilyn noticed that many of them were paying big money for health insurance policies so she began referring them to Beverly, which led to invitations to share how she had helped her family’s company. She was asked to speak at chambers of commerce around Kansas and other conferences for small businesses nationwide. In 2005, she was invited to participate in a conference on health insurance and HSAs with then-Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Her love for teaching was put to use as she changed her mission to educating families, businesses, legislators, and presidents on how to lower the cost of health insurance and health care. “I’m very mission-minded, and helping people understand health insurance became my new mission,” Beverly says. Gossage launched HSA Benefits Consulting 20 years ago.
Beverly can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to be a teacher.
Word of Gossage’s expertise in pioneering these types of accounts spread quickly. She was invited to participate in a roundtable on HSAs by the Bush administration in 2006.
When Gossage learned about the Obama administration’s plans to overhaul health insurance, she knew things were going in the wrong direction. “We had a very vibrant private market in Kansas and Missouri, and other states like us,” she recalls. “We had 17 carriers, Missouri had 24, hundreds of plans to pick from, and amazing rates. I wrote children’s policies all day long for $25. You had young people’s premiums for $50, and a 64-year-old female, which is usually the highest cost for a plan, was only $169. So, we had these amazing plans and I prayed please don’t mess this up. I said that we should be fighting the Obama proposals with everything we had. I estimated that our rates would go up a minimum of 400% if we did this.” Her articles were published by Americans for Prosperity and others. As Gossage predicted, rates skyrocketed and the insurance market options and provider networks shrank dramatically in Kansas (and elsewhere).
The Affordable Care Act, Gossage explains, makes health insurance policies astronomically expensive unless one is low-income because so many medical services are mandated and no underwriting is allowed. That means insurers can’t ask about one’s health conditions, removing the discount that healthy people enjoyed before the ACA. Overcharging healthy people and undercharging those who waited to apply until they got sick was a recipe for disaster. Most people didn’t realize that insurers accepted most pre-existing conditions, even if the person had waited to buy a plan. They may pay slightly more than others but they were offered a plan unless they waited until they had a significant claim pending. Those few who waited were guaranteed a policy in the state pool. This kept rates very low for the vast majority of Americans in the private market and encouraged everyone to buy a policy before they needed it.
Under the ACA, people were mandated to buy policies that covered services they didn’t want or need. Gossage served as a Senior Fellow with Independent Women’s Voice during the battle to defeat the costly Affordable Care Act. She became a much-in-demand speaker on health insurance most certainly due to her experience in the industry and the clarity that she brings as an excellent teacher.
When she was asked to speak to the Republican Study Committee during the Trump administration, she asked them, “What is the goal of the Left when it comes to healthcare policy? A universal response from the committee ‘single-payer!’ What’s our goal?” Crickets. Beverly told them, “Our goal should be that every American has an opportunity to purchase a private, portable, personalized health insurance plan. It’s that simple. Research has shown that this concept is popular with Americans in both parties and Independents, but how do we get there?” she asked them.
She recommended two steps:
A.) Admit that the ACA was a failed experiment and allow states to remove the federal layer of regulation and bureaucracy imposed on the private market that usurped the authority of the state insurance department.
That would leave that state’s current regulations intact, returning autonomy to the state and allowing for a true free market of private plans to reopen.
B.) Amend HSA Law to
- Allow any health plan to be HSA compatible
- Increase the contribution level
- Permit premiums to be paid from the HSA
These two changes would:
- Give employers the option to get out of the insurance business but retain the tax deduction by contributing to the employee’s HSAs. (Think moving from retirement plans to 401Ks)
- Welcome more insurers into the individual market much like the competition in the auto insurance arena.
- Let employees purchase a private, portable, personalized health plan that goes with them from job to job, where they can pay for the features they want, reducing premiums and broadening choices.
- Reserving subsidies for a safety net only, not a hammock.
Beverly explained that the obstacle to this common-sense policy is the media and the Left who would scream that we are repealing Obamacare. This is where education comes in.
We must be better at messaging on why a government-mandated and controlled health insurance market is expensive and gives less choice in doctors, medical care, and plan design.
Asked if there are any positive developments in health care, Gossage cites the development of concierge care, commonly called cash doctor medical practices.
Gossage is asked if there are any positive developments in health care. Her answer? The development of concierge care, commonly called cash doctor medical practices. “Health insurance was never designed to cover services you could actually pay for,” she explains, “like a primary care visit and generic drugs, and even a specialist visit. The very fact that Obamacare required that these services and many more be covered, made all those services more expensive and raised premiums. But because these cash doctors give a menu of prices or charge a monthly fee and don’t need to pay for staff just to file claims with the insurance company middleman and have to wait for claims to be reprocessed, they can finally charge less, get paid at the point of service, and save their patients money. They pass the savings on to the patient. It’s a win-win—for doctors and patients.”
With Gossage’s gift for explaining, it was inevitable that supporters began to urge her to run for office. She made an unsuccessful run for Insurance Commissioner but was later begged to try for the state Senate. Robert Gossage was her most enthusiastic campaigner. “My husband said ‘honey, did you forget we have 1,500 signs in the basement [from the race for Insurance Commissioner]? And I said, ‘what? Are those signs still in the basement?’ and he told me all we have to do is take those and cover ‘insurance commissioner’ with ‘state Senator’. And I said ‘well, I haven’t changed my hairstyle in years. I’m like June Cleaver, same hairstyle.’ Our team put together a brochure very quickly.”
“Everybody and their brother pitched in—at my church we had 25 people show up to help stuff literature into bags and drop them at the doors. And another team put those stickers on the signs. I moved all of my Medicare clients to early in the morning and started the first one at 5:00 AM instead of 8:00, and, thankfully, they all understood that I needed the afternoon to walk door-to-door and campaign. The precinct people voted me in to replace the resigning Senator on the general ballot on a Wednesday night six weeks before early balloting. By Friday morning, my husband was at Costco buying donuts for the volunteers, and he hears over the loudspeaker: ‘Beverly Gossage, not right for Kansas. She does not want health care for children.’ I thought ‘oh, great. My opponent is already attacking me with absolute lies.’”
Beverly won her seat but her beloved Robert died two weeks before she was sworn in. Robert and Beverly had celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary that November. Work has been Beverly’s solace. “I just try not to let people see me sad. I smile because I don’t want to bring them down,” she says.
Although Beverly had originally thought she’d retire after a single term, she’s changed her mind as her constituents have asked her to run again. So, she is preparing for her campaign for re-election while helping her clients and educating the public on health policy.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Gossage’s class just may be the best way to make a complicated subject clear and just maybe help bring about reform as a result.