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Leatherberry awarded 2023 Healthcare Transformation Award

The Avergent founder focuses on helping employers reduce healthcare premiums, expenses

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November 13, 2023

GREEN BAY – Over the past 15 years, Drew Leatherberry – principal advisor, president and founder of Avergent – has helped dozens of employers reduce healthcare premiums and expenses.

Those efforts were recently recognized at the Alliance Fall Symposium & Annual Meeting in Madison last month when he was presented with a 2023 Healthcare Transformation Award.

The award – which Leatherberry was nominated for by clients of his – is designed to highlight people who were involved locally, regionally and nationally in transforming health care.  

It’s an honor Leatherberry said he doesn’t take lightly.   

“I didn’t get into this to win awards,” he said. “To me, awards are wonderful, but they are simply recognizing the work we have put in to deliver something better.”

A look back
Avergent – a Wisconsin-based benefits advisement firm – started in 2019 as a one-man operation in a 200-square-foot office in De Pere.

Today, the firm is located at 1400 Lombardi Ave. in Green Bay.

“In the first two years, we grew to a half dozen staff members serving 15 employers,” Leatherberry said. “In less than five years, we’ve had to move or expand office space four times to account for our team.”

The firm, he said, initially focused on helping employers set up plans that incentivized paying high-quality providers.

Leatherberry said soon the firm learned that members needed “a hand on the shoulder type of support” when they were navigating their care.

Rising healthcare premiums, deductibles and the overall cost of care are what Leatherberry said drives him to be a “maverick in the industry.”

“My ‘why’ has to do with my role over the last 15 years – working as an employee benefits advisor assisting employers – both public and private – and watching the explosion of expenses – both for the organization specific to the healthcare benefit plans and more importantly, the increase in cost for plan members,” he said. 

Drew Leatherberry said it’s the stories of the people behind the analytics that inspire him. Submitted Photo

Leatherberry said open enrollment can be an unsettling time for folks each year – witnessing the struggles the average American family faces as healthcare costs increase.

“I heard the call and recognized the problem,” he said. “I saw with my own two eyes (how) middle-class families struggle with the reality they will need to come up with $200, $300 or $400 more each month (for healthcare costs).”

When you think about it at the granular level, Leatherberry said look at the impact it has on the average American.

“You start to see that health insurance has become somewhat of a tapeworm on the economy and the American family,” he said.

Leatherberry said his passion for transforming health care for American businesses and their employees was, in part, inspired by Dave Chase, co-founder and CEO of Health Rosetta Advisors, of which Avergent is a member. 

An article by Chase in Forbes 2016 titled: “This Job Could Save America, ” Leatherberry said served as motivation for him.

“Every little boy wants to be a superhero when they grow up,” he said. “When I read the article, I was on my own (mission to) reinvent myself and fix the challenge I saw in health care and insurance. It caught my attention.”

Providing guidance 
Leatherberry said Avergent was started to do just that – noting the firm’s “why” is to educate, empower and equip organizations to help them transform their plans.

“We tie it to the American Dream because the average family premium over the last 20 years has more than tripled,” he said.

Leatherberry said the average all-in cost for an insurance premium per year is more than $22,000 while deductibles average more than $4,000.

When you compile that, for a family to receive coverage or payment, Leatherberry said the starting point is more than $25,000 per year.  

With that in mind, he said Avergent looks at healthcare plans for employees in an entirely different way.

“I like to use the analogy that most brokerage benefit advisors are purchasing agents,” he said. “Think of it in terms of buying a house. They will go out and negotiate rates on the premanufactured homes.”

Leatherbury said Avergent architects most of their employer plans, disassembles them and then teaches employers how to self-fund.

Leatherberry said the numbers tell the real story. 

“More than 70% of our customers today no longer have a deductible,” he said.

Avergent has a nurse concierge in place to be the go-to person – or “medical mom” – which Leatherberry said assists in managing the medical maze. 

“I use the medical mom term because it is something that inadvertently came up in a conversation with a member – he said, ‘so, you’re telling me I have my mom helping me navigate through this?’”

The role of the nurse concierge, Leatherberry said, is equivalent to a travel agent.

“They are there to support them, making sure they get expert opinions and are seeing the right physicians,” he said. “When the employee works with our nurse to get the best quality at the best price, their out-of-pocket expenses get waived 90% of the time.” 

Leatherberry said Avergent moved to a benefit design that didn’t require a member to reach a certain threshold of cost before the plan would pay on most services.

This, he said, gets rid of the deductible. 

Aside from the analytics of it all, Leatherberry said it’s the stories behind them that drive him and his team at Avergent to do the work that they do.

Candace Meronk, director of association services at Team Schierl Companies, a Stevens Point business that has worked with Avergent, said Leatherberry is a “pioneer in the much-needed healthcare ‘excavating’ in Wisconsin.”

Avergent’s staff supports a membership count that Drew Leatherberry, center, said will exceed 17,000 by the start of 2024. Submitted Photo

“He is passionate about helping both the employer and each individual insured and their families to have quality care and options to save,” she said. “His integrity and dedication to this mission are unwavering. He believes in establishing valued partnerships that support a win-win model for all involved, including those at the point of delivery of quality care.”

Meronk said with Leatherberry’s and Avergent’s assistance, Team Schierl Companies can be an employer that “truly offers health care, not just a health plan.”

“Drew has and continues to advise and partner with us to accomplish this,” she said.

The future looks very bright
Leatherberry said Avergent has built an entire team around the nurse concierge with access to 1,000 specialists virtually at the nation’s finest academic medical centers through a third-party program that it partners with.

“Those clinicians are available to our nurses to provide opinions of care and to evaluate the best physicians in the market,” he said. “We have a team of pharmacists we work with to review medications and make recommendations on alternates. We have insurance and risk-management folks, too, and we contract providers on the ground if we need to negotiate a contract on a one-to-one basis.”

Leatherberry said Avergent is reimagining what healthcare benefits can look like. 

In a time when employers have to be cognizant of workplace culture and individual needs, Leatherberry said “I’m most excited about where we are headed.”

Avergent, which is in its fifth year of operation, primarily works with employers in the upper Midwest – supporting a membership count that Leatherberry said will exceed 17,000 by the start of 2024.

“We will force the hand of insurance companies and the healthcare systems,” he said. “I like to work with these organizations and also recognize that for change to happen, there has to be these transformative style plans that ultimately push the market forward.”

For more information on Avergent, visit

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