Jack Burk

Q: It’s my understanding that you used to work for a few large health firms before coming to Milliman. What brought you here?

The last company I worked for was moving to a new location, so I considered what else was available at the time, including consulting. I interviewed with Milliman and it was a good match with my experience. What’s fun about consulting with Milliman is that you’re often doing innovative, cutting-edge work. That’s a fundamental difference between consulting and most corporate work.

Q: What did Milliman’s reputation mean to you before you joined the firm?

I had always thought of Milliman as the actuary’s actuary, the one and only actuary I would go to when I worked for a carrier. We had requested Milliman’s assistance on complicated or difficult problems.

Q: As a consultant, I assume your experience on the client side helps you understand where your clients are coming from.

I believe so. When a client calls me, I can put myself in their shoes, from understanding budget constraints to showing their managers how to work with marketing. Having worked as a manager of a business unit at a carrier helps me and my team consult to people who are in similar positions and are trying to figure out how to balance growth with profitability while serving their market.

Q: Do your clients value the comprehensive viewpoint you bring to their engagements?

I think small business market projects find me. I know that in some of these proposals, they perk up when they hear about my experience: “You mean you managed the marketing? You managed the underwriting? The proposal, the installation, and the customer service? You managed all that?” Because sometimes it isn’t just the financial person making the decision. It’s a management team, and they like the notion that I’ll bring balance to their problem and not just side with the actuary. So, I think sometimes we win projects, especially in the small group market, because of that expertise.

Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing your clients and the Milliman Healthcare practice as the prospect of reform looms larger and larger? What changes do you see coming, and how will you address those in your work?

The healthcare system itself must confront the issue of affordability. The first question is: Who’s rationing? Not “if.” Who. The notion that you can have all the healthcare you want and it will be cheaper if you change the system is a fallacy. No matter what happens, somebody’s going to decide what the limits are, whether it be carriers and employers, the government, or consumers. We have to help our clients solve this issue, though carriers can’t do it alone. The last time carriers tried to solve it themselves, there was a backlash. The other issue is: Who’s going to pay? It’s not really a question of whether it’s done by carrier or done by government. It’s more fundamental. Are we going to raise taxes to help lower-income people pay for it or not? I think the most likely scenario that will be proposed will be something along the lines of taking the individual and small ends of the group market and combining them. In that scenario, there’s still a role for carriers and for actuaries.

Q: It sounds like there will still be a pretty big role for Milliman no matter what type of reform happens in the near future.

Change requires analysis, and that leads to projects. So I do think there’s going to be a big role for Milliman in the reform discussion and in implementation of whatever changes are enacted.

Q: In seeking a solution to the U.S. healthcare problem, some would look to the way other countries have dealt with the issue. Is this helpful? Or are the challenges facing the United States healthcare system unique?

I think the United States has the best healthcare and one reason we have the best healthcare is that innovation has been rewarded, and that’s something you don’t want to lose. Yes, there are some differences. Yes, it makes sense to look at other countries, but I don’t know that there’s one best solution that works for every country in the world.

Q: In general, how would you describe work/life balance at Milliman?

Compared to the carriers I used to work for, Milliman is much more flexible when it comes to schedule management. You can leave in the middle of the day or work from home or work while you’re on vacation with your family. In contrast, the corporate time requirements were more rigid. We would do our business between 8:00 and 5:00 and you generally had to be there. I used to feel like my job was to meet during business hours, and if I wanted to work on something, it would have to take place after the meetings ended at 5:00. At Milliman, as long as you are meeting your clients’ expectations, it’s not necessary that you do it from your desk.

Q: Are there actually fewer meetings at Milliman?

Oh, yeah. A lot fewer meetings than there would be for somebody who’s at the management or executive level at a carrier.

Q: What advice would you give a new employee in terms of having a successful career at Milliman?

At Milliman, you need to have self-initiative. A junior person here needs to take control of his or her career a little bit more than if he or she were in a program at a carrier. You have to decide what it is that you’re interested in consulting about and if there is a market for that. Milliman rewards initiative and creativity more than most carriers and most other consultants. So if you sit back and wait for things to come to you, you’re less likely to do well than if you say, “How would I like to shape my career? What do I want to do? What do I want to be an expert in?”

Q: If you were sitting with a prospective employee who was weighing whether he was going to go with Milliman or with one of our competitors, what would you tell him?

If you’re motivated and willing to work for it, the rewards can be greater here. The expectations here may be higher, but so are the rewards.

Q: You’ve been with Milliman in Philadelphia for about a decade. Have you and your family been happy with the move?

It’s great. We all love it here and everybody has thrived, and the job’s working out great. This is my last job. I’m not changing unless you consider retirement a job someday.