Jersey CEO's focus: Monitoring the tumult in health care

.John Turner, chief executive of Corporate Synergies.

Every day, there’s a new headline from Washington about the Trump administration’s efforts to “replace and repeal” the Affordable Care Act enacted during the Obama administration. It’s head-spinning, but keeping up with the continuing churn of news is a key business imperative for John Turner, 48, chief executive of  Corporate Synergies Group LLC in Mount Laurel, an insurance brokerage and consulting firm that specializes in employee health benefits, but also handles property and casualty insurance.

How are your clients dealing with all the noise and news about changes to the Affordable Care Act?

It keeps us busy.  Our main goal is to clarify or simplify all the complications going on with federal or state governments pertaining to employee benefits. It’s not just health care. There are other benefit issues. I think of it as one of those corn mazes.  Our clients are staring at that corn maze and they’re, like, “Whoa, how am I going to get to the other end?”  One of our main goals is to make sure they get through the maze as quickly as possible.

How do you keep up?  It almost changes by the minute.

We have an entire compliance department dedicated to keeping up to date with all those changes. We have an attorney on staff with three paralegal types that are constantly understanding the impact of potential changes and things within those changes that employers need to do over time. That’s become a very big part of our business since 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was passed.

What other changes should we expect?

There is discussion that they are going to limit the [tax] deductibility of employer-sponsored health insurance. So, that is a big, big issue.

Talk to me about that.

Right now employers that provide health insurance get a tax credit for that. It’s considered an expense and it reduces their tax liability. Now there are proposals on the table that would reduce the employer’s ability to deduct that. Between ages 18 and 64, 69.7 percent of the U.S. population gets health insurance through employers. That’s really significant. And it could have a significant impact, adding to the uninsured. Because, if you think about employers, they [wouldn’t be able] to expense that. Also, employers’ health-care costs continue to rise in the high single digits. So, the employer either absorbs that increase, or they pass it along to their employees or share in that increase somehow. If you limit the employer’s ability to deduct that as an expense, what are they going to do? They’re probably not going to provide health insurance.

At that point, would employers be better off paying the penalty for not providing health insurance?

It just depends. You’d have to do the math. That all depends if the penalties stay in play. Who knows at this point? To me, that is one of the biggest issues that people need to be aware of. If you’re an employer, you need to be talking to your senators.

You’ve run divisions in big companies, such as United Healthcare, where you were responsible for 1,000 people. Now you lead a company with about 225 employees. What is the difference?

Being a CEO of a 200-some-employee company is a huge responsibility. Decisions that you make for the organization impact people’s lives. I’m going to give you an example. I sign everybody’s paycheck. If I make a mistake, I may have to lay somebody off, and they’re not going to have a paycheck. That’s a huge responsibility. I’m the captain of this ship and it is my job to make sure we continue to be a viable organization for all of us.

What do you do to relax?

I competitively cycle. I’ll give you an example — the Cross Florida, which is a 180-mile race across Florida — in a day.

That’s not my idea of relaxing.

I like the challenge. And my family medical history — there are a lot of cardiac issues. So it helps me stay above ground, for lack of a better term, which is a positive. Secondarily, it is a way to decompress. Being on a bike allows me to clear my head. I probably solve more business issues on a bike than I would in my office, because I can get out on the road and just go. You’re not distracted. Your phone’s not buzzing.

Interview questions and answers have been edited for space.




Home: Orlando, Fla., with daughters, Alexa, 20, Rylee, 15.

Diplomas: Kean University, health, physical fitness; master's in health services administration; Regis University, master's in management, finance; Florida State University, master's in risk management.

Favorite food: Barbecue everywhere, Fette Sau in Philadelphia.

Phone app: "Calm" for meditation.


What: Employee benefit consulting, health property and casualty insurance brokerage.

Where: Mount Laurel, offices in Wayne, Pa.; New York, Maryland, Florida.

Employees: 225 serving 600 clients.

Dollars: Places $1 billion in annual premiums.