It was 2014, we had four team members employed and a fifth preparing to come on board. I was at home working at our first Heart and Solutions Office – our dining room table. I couldn’t feel my hands, my heart was pounding, and the tears flowed from my unblinking eyes as I watched my dream agency disappear one month after I had found the courage to create it.
I still held the phone in my hand. The voice of the Magellan representative still a fresh wound in my ears and heart: “Your contract may take another six months to get signed. We just have no way of knowing when it will be processed.
We had done everything “right.”
We had obtained a provisional Chapter 24 approval, we had credentialed with the insurance providers, and we had received notice that our Magellan application was approved to see Medicaid clients.
We didn’t understand that “approved” and “signed” mean two totally different things in the world of insurance.
“Does this mean we can’t bill for sessions until it is signed?” I asked. We would not be able to bill for sessions until the contract was signed at Magellan’s headquarters in Minnesota. I asked if we would be able to back bill for the time between now and when the contract was signed, and the answer was a firm “no.”
We had 30 clients counting on us. We had four team members and their families relying on paychecks that we had agreed to write. I called Joe (my husband and co-founder) immediately.
“We can’t bill Medicaid until they sign the stupid contract,” I sobbed into to the phone.
Joe, in a bad cell area and in the middle of fishing, immediately thought that someone had died due to the hysteria he was hearing on my end of the phone. Once he figured out that I was talking about insurance and got the gist of how hopeless the situation felt, he abruptly said, “Let’s talk about it when I get home. I am fishing.”
I spent the next two hours alternating between rage at the insurance company and despair.
How could our agency close only a few weeks after it had begun? How could I let down those who believed in us and came on board to support us?
Joe is in charge of the budgeting and the numbers. He is not a counselor, he has had no counselor training other than being married to one for eight years.
What I was about to propose to him when he walked in the door was absolute madness. It made zero financial sense and would hurt us financially much more than when I quit my high paying job to build this dream. I wanted to propose that we pay payroll out of our savings and his paychecks for the next six months until we could start billing Medicaid. I mentally prepared my arguments: the clients need our services, we didn’t start this company for the money, our team members need to be paid. I rehearsed this over and over in my mind preparing myself for the fight of my life.
Joe walked into the kitchen two hours later. I took a deep breath and prepared to present my case.
Joe slowly put down his fishing gear and unlaced his boots: “Well, we’ll just have to see the clients for free won’t we?” he said. “What about the counselors?” I asked not sure I had heard him right. “Well, they’ll need to be paid too. Good thing we have our savings account and a paid for house.”
That was the moment.
That was the defining moment of who we were, are, and always will be as a company. It was the moment I realized I was in business with a partner and spouse that truly understood what I was doing and why it mattered and that even though it would end up costing us all of our savings and every dollar of his paycheck that didn’t go to food or utilities, none of that mattered. I knew that the foundation of that moment, of that decision, was solid ground to build this dream.
It did take five months to start getting paid for our claims. We saw our clients for free and paid our team members for their sessions. We ate cereal and homemade soup, I brought food with me to meetings at restaurants. Our office furniture was cheap or free. It wasn’t pretty or stylish, but all of our money was going to making payroll each month.
I look back on that time with fondness and a strong desire to never, ever do that again! It was one of those situations that I can look back on with gratitude for the fact that I cannot see the future. If I could have seen those few months prior to starting Heart and Solutions, I never would have done it. What a gift it is to only be able to see the next right step, the next right decision in front of us and to know that I get to do it with a partner who truly understands who we are as a company.