Land of Lincoln Health Connects to Healthcare Marketplace

How Jason Montrie and Land of Lincoln Health are revolutionizing the competition in Illinois' health insurance industry as the state's first cooperatively owned option

As the first cooperatively owned health insurance company in Illinois, Land of Lincoln Health strives to connect caregivers with their communities by partnering with  stakeholders of all kinds. The company prioritizes insurance education and health literacy and offers broad network connections—which results in the best benefits at the lowest cost to members. At the helm of the organization is Jason Montrie, a fifteen-year veteran of the health-care industry with an instinct for efficiency and a heart for helping others. Guiding Land of Lincoln Health from business plan to reality has been a welcome challenge for Montrie, just as the company itself has been a welcomed competitor to the health insurance market in Illinois.

What makes Land of Lincoln Health unlike other health insurance organizations?

Land of Lincoln Health isn’t just a new insurance company, we’re an entirely new type of insurance company. We have sought to redefine our role as an insurance provider and to build something that will be a long-lasting solution in the marketplace. We’re unique because we are not only run by our members, we’re run for our members. We’re engineered to think very differently about what the role of an insurance company can be in a new health-care ecosystem, and how we can contribute. Our approach is about collaborating with the caregivers in the communities in which they serve, to build and create new and innovative insurance options for all of our members.

What are some examples of the ways you have collaborated?

Our Preferred Partner Plan is a good example. We have partnered with eight hospitals or delivery systems in Illinois to create new insurance options that combine a wide access of providers with great benefits to members. That means members have lower deductibles and co-pays with their primary care physicians, but they also have access to the broader network of all Land of Lincoln Health providers. In many cases, these plans have been named after the providers in the community, to try and better connect these people with their providers.

How did you get the concept of a member-owned insurance company off the ground?

We were funded in January 2013 and had to have our plan on the exchange by that October, so we had to have a very disciplined project management approach. We also surrounded ourselves with individuals who had a relentless pursuit of solutions, teamwork, and collaboration. By having an incredibly well-thought-out business plan and surrounding ourselves with some of the brightest minds I’ve ever served with, we were able to pull this off.

Are people generally receptive to the idea? I’d imagine that for a community-oriented project, you would need the whole community on board.

Just this past open enrollment, one of every four entrants into the marketplace in Illinois joined Land of Lincoln Health, so clearly the consumer was ready for additional competition in the industry. We also would not be where we are today without the significant support of the hospital and provider industry. We’re thrilled that all the needed stakeholders for Land of Lincoln Health’s success were very ready for a new entrant into the health insurance ecosystem. Not just any new entrant, but one that was built decidedly differently and looked at decisions through the lens of what was best for the patient.

Why did you join Land of Lincoln Health?

I’m drawn to innovation, efficiency, and improvement. In my fifteen-year career in health care I have always caught myself saying, “There has to be a better way to do this.” Joining Land of Lincoln Health was a once-in-a-life-time chance to be at the center of what is a very rapidly changing industry, and to play a key role in the future of it. I leapt at the opportunity before I knew what my job would be, and I feel very humbled and honored to serve as president. Most days I sprint to work and have to pinch myself.

Tell me about your leadership style. How do you approach guiding this new company toward its future?

I consider myself a participative leader. I challenge and empower the team to take risks and find new and inventive ways of thinking. I also challenge us as a company to think critically, and to ask “Why?” until we get to the root of whatever issue we’re addressing. A unique thing about our size is that we are able to easily bring representatives together from every part of our organization to think about how each decision affects each stakeholder. We make much better decisions when we can think in 360-degree views like that, and as we grow, we must continue to deliberately hardwire that thinking into the organization.

How do you define success at the company?

At Land of Lincoln Health, we believe we have the unique opportunity to fundamentally change the conversation about what a health insurance company can and should be, especially in Illinois. We believe that success means having a permanent and positive impact on the health-care ecosystem.

What kind of unique challenges does the company face as a co-op?

As exciting as it has been to be a part of Land of Lincoln Health, it has not been without its challenges. It’s no secret that the insurance industry is heavily regulated, and an added complexity is that the co-op program is brand new and born of the Affordable Care Act. It’s also no secret that the health care system in the US is not entirely efficient, and the insurance industry hasn’t been a great laboratory for innovation—both in technology and in new ways of thinking. At Land of Lincoln Health, we have a unique opportunity to be innovative in thinking about what role the health insurance industry can play in the future, and instrumental in leading an overall thought-change.

What are your tactics for staying ahead of the curve?

Tactics absent a plan or strategy are not worthwhile, so it’s important to paint a picture of where we are headed. At Land of Lincoln Health, we try think about where we want to go first, and then about how we get there. Along the way we need to be sure to step back and make sure we’re going down the right path, and thinking big enough with the right stakeholders in mind.

And where is Land of Lincoln Health going?

The opportunity for us to redefine what partnerships between providers and insurance companies can mean is a value proposition that will speak to every Illinoisan. We believe there is such a thing as conscious capitalism, and we can follow our vision to be a nonprofit health insurance company, as well as offer a competitive option in the marketplace. I think we’ve found an elegant way to combine that mission and opportunity, and we are on our way to a place where there is an unbelievable amount of opportunity for someone who is engineered to think differently, like Land of Lincoln Health.