Interview with Christine Cooper from United States

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Christine Cooper

Christine Cooper is the founder and CEO of aequum LLC and simultaneously holds the role of a co-managing member at Koehler Fitzgerald LLC, a nationwide law firm. She joined Koehler Fitzgerald LLC as a lawyer in 2016, where she currently head the firm's healthcare practice.

Interview With The 2023 TITAN Women in Business Awards Winner – Christine Cooper

1Please provide us with a brief bio of yourself.

My name is Christine Cooper and I am the founder and CEO of aequum LLC and I am also a co-managing member of Koehler Fitzgerald LLC, a law firm with a national practice.

I earned my Bachelor of Science Degree from The Ohio State University and a Juris Doctorate from Boston University School of Law. As an attorney recruited to Koehler Fitzgerald LLC in 2016, I lead the firm’s healthcare practice. I am an avid runner and Ironman athlete and is very active in a variety of community affairs.

2What is your role in the company?
I assume the role of a Chief Executive Officer at aequum.
3Please tell us more about your organization.

aequum, meaning ‘what is fair and just,’ supports employer-sponsored health plans with compliant and strategic solutions to lower risk, manage costs, reduce spending, gain potential savings and maximize plan value. Its sister organization, Koehler Fitzgerald LLC, provides legal advocacy and defense of plan participants engaged in medical billing disputes.

Since its inception, aequum has represented more than 425 self-insured health plan sponsors and their participants and resolved (to date) 10,000+ claims for more than 5,000 member patients – saving nearly $40 million ($39.99m).

4Describe the industry your organization is specialized in, as well as its main characteristics.
aequum is a first-of-its kind tech-driven company in the complex field of medical billing. It’s team of specialists employ information technology and data-driven solutions to manage costs and sustain health coverage as a benefit, creating a competitive financial advantage for plan sponsors and improving the “health and wealth” status of their participants.
5Congratulations! As the winner of the TITAN Women In Business Awards, what does it mean for you and your team to receive this distinction?
It is a distinct honor to be selected from among so many deserving and accomplished women nominated for this prestigious award. I am immensely proud of the aequum team and what we have achieved together that has made an impact on our industry by leveling the playing field for those challenged by the complexities of medical billing.
6How has winning an international award help promote your organization?
Winning this award shows that aequum is having an impact on the healthcare system in the U.S. aequum is striving to “level the playing field” of medical billing, which is no small feat in a system that makes medical billing confusing and incomprehensible to patients. This award demonstrates that we are making a difference.
7What are the challenges of developing / marketing your winning entry(ies)?
My task involves ensuring that we effectively communicate the significant influence of aequum within the healthcare system and the employee benefit sector. This recognition serves as a significant catalyst in propelling us even further along this trajectory.
8As a business owner, please tell us more about your ideation process.

My ideation process involves first educating myself more and more about the United States’s healthcare system and its challenges, including our partners’ pain points. I then focus on creating solutions to those pain points with associated opportunities.

For example, we are constantly changing and improving our processes to meet the needs of our partners. In doing so, we often find new ways to help our existing partners, as well as ways to expand and market our services more broadly.

9What is your own definition of a successful team / organization / business?
My definition of a successful organization is one that has a team that is collectively invested and supportive of the company’s vision and mission. At aequum, our mission is to “level the playing field of medical billing” by supporting employer plan sponsors and their employee participant with transparent information and a clear understanding of their rights, so that they can make the most cost-effective healthcare decision.
10What led you / your organization to become successful within the industry you are currently in?
Helping clients employ the most effective tools and resources to achieve the right balance between a benefit package that is both adequate and affordable yet financially sustainable. This is especially challenging given current economic and labor force conditions, and new government policies and regulations.
11How has the country, you are based in, helped move your industry forward?
The United States supports health plan design innovation that allows our partners to offer unique solutions that better meet employee healthcare needs and that enable employers, as plan sponsors, to sustain coverage as a benefit.
12What have you found to be a hindering factor, for your business, during the entire course of the pandemic, and how did you overcome that hinderance?

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed a much larger segment of Americans as being financially fragile – living paycheck to paycheck and unprepared for regular household expenses, let alone out-of-pocket medical expenses. Now, compounded by a potential national recession, and coupled with an ever-increasing rate of inflation, employers and employees alike are at a level of heightened concern over the potential for significant increases in the cost of medical services, drugs, supplies and devices.

As a proactive approach to counter inflationary trends, aequum recommended that plan sponsors focus on helping participants build savings rather than purchase more costly insurance. Leveraging Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) as part of a ’health and wealth’ rewards strategy can optimize financial preparedness.

13What are the current trends in the business industry that you are most excited about?
More than a year ago, the United States healthcare system marked a turning point with the passage of the No Surprises Act (NSA) to address concerns about “balance billing.” The NSA applies to participants in employer-sponsored health plans. It protects participants from “surprise” bills for certain emergency services and care received from out-of-network providers at in-network facilities. aequum is taking action to ensure its members incorporate the most effective tools and strategies that go far beyond simple NSA compliance.
14What resources would you recommend to someone who is searching to improve their business prospects and organizational success?

The value of having the right medical billing partner facilitates all the strategic designs and processes – acting as an agent of change, embracing technology innovation and advocating for “what is fair and just.” The right partner will offer value-added services through turnkey solutions, innovative plan designs, administrative and compliance support, as well as participant legal representation.

This support provides invaluable guidance to navigate federal and state healthcare regulations, identify areas to lower risk, reduce costs and maximize value.

15Where do you see the evolution of the overall business industry in the next 5-10 years?

Providing all Americans with access to affordable, quality healthcare is one of the greatest economic challenges of our time. This is especially concerning for employers who are understandably looking for ways to reduce and manage costs in order to sustain healthcare coverage as an employee benefit.

Most employers are impacted by surging healthcare inflation and higher employee utilization of clinical services. Given projected trends, employers can expect significant cost increases to their health plans now and into future years. Employees are just as financially vulnerable as they are seeing their health plan premiums rise faster than their wages.

Many are at a point of “financially fragility” – unprepared to pay high deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket costs. It is widely recognized that the surging costs of healthcare services and prescription drugs to treat acute and chronic conditions can lead to personal bankruptcy.

For participants in an employer-sponsored health plan, healthcare consumerism brings an opportunity to engage and better understand the information incorporated in the explanation of benefits. There also are strategies that take advantage of price transparency to capitalize on cost containment initiatives and fully optimize value. This insight has potential to transform an employee’s health coverage usage, putting the economic purchasing power and decision-making in their hands.

16Who inspired you in your life, and why?

Professionally, I was inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She was completely dedicated to her work and had one of the cleverest legal minds. She could look at an argument and see a way to relate it to her opponents in a way to pin them into a corner. She was quiet but so effective and she broke through many barriers.

Personally, I am inspired by my daughter. She is 10 years old and fearless. She is always willing to try new things and take risks. I have learned a lot through raising a daughter that doesn’t limit herself or let her gender hold her back.

17What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

Having a wonderfully supportive team that shares the same passion in what we are trying to accomplish in the healthcare and benefit space! aequum would not be where it is without everyone who pours their energy into making it run smoothly each and every-day.

Our team is invested in helping support our mission of “leveling the playing field” when it comes to medical billing and bringing relief and peace of mind to those on the receiving end of medical billing.

Winning Entry

Christine Cooper - CEO of aequum LLC | 2023

aequum, meaning ‘what is fair and just,’ provides value-added, tech-enabled services through turnkey solutions, innovative ...
(read more at TITAN Women in Business Awards)

Christine Cooper

Christine Cooper is the founder and CEO of aequum LLC and simultaneously holds the role of a co-managing member at Koehler Fitzgerald LLC, a nationwide law firm. She joined Koehler Fitzgerald LLC as a lawyer in 2016, where she currently head the firm's healthcare practice.

Read more about this interview with Carrie Chan from Hong Kong S.A.R., China, the Platinum Winner of the 2023 TITAN Women in Business Awards.