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Q&A with Johnny Morgan, of Morgan-White Insurance

Johnny Morgan
Johnny Morgan

Since 1987, MorganWhiteGroup Inc. has grown from payroll deductions to six wholly owned subsidiaries.
Today, the company started by Johnny Morgan and his partner David White is the largest solely dedicated health insurance company in the state.
The company is so successful that it made Inc. Magazine’s list of the Top 30 Top 30 Fastest Growing Companies in the insurance industry (based on annual sales revenue) for 2013.
Morgan agreed to answer a few questions from HottyToddy.com this week, when he could find a spare minute, about his insurance company’s successes.
HT: How did you meet your partner, David R. White?
JM: David White and I were fraternity brothers in college (Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Mississippi). We met each other in the late ’60s in college. We’ve been friends ever since. We were roommates and were in several businesses early on in manufacturing. His grandfather had an International Harvester dealership at that time.
I had a street load maintenance company, and the grand plan was to merge those two companies together. That didn’t pan out as well because of a lot of factors, including foreign imports.
HT: Why did you and your partner, David R. White, decide to form an insurance company?
JM: A friend of mine approached me about a new thing that had come out, IRS 125 Cafeteria Plans, supplemental insurance plans that use pretax money to pay for it and provide benefits. They were popular with employers and employees.
We got into that and self-funded workers’ compensation. At that time, workers’ compensation was so high, and everyone was in the assigned risk program, so we started several workers’ compensation programs.
HT: How did you move into health insurance?
JM: People started asking for health insurance. People didn’t have a problem with car or house insurance. Everyone was scrambling around for health insurance because everyone wants everything paid for when they go to the doctor. … Today we’re the largest solely dedicated health insurance company in the state.
We also have an international division, which David started. We sell health insurance products in South America and have a claims office in Miami, with about 60 employees there.
David primarily started that because he was selling equipment in South America for his grandfather and had developed some relationships with people selling life insurance. One of the guys in South America said, “We really need a health insurance product.”
They already have government coverage of poor people. All the specialty doctors, such as neurosurgeons, form private clinics, and they don’t take government insurance.
If you don’t have private health clinics, you don’t get care. This insurance will bring you into Houston or Miami, and you will get treatment in U.S. All medical records are transcribed into English and patients get immediate care.
We’re always looking for new markets and more innovative approaches to resolving the rapidly rising costs of health care. … In today’s market, whether in health insurance or pharmaceuticals or automobiles, you have to think outside the box. If you don’t you’ll end up being inside the box. There’s no such thing as standing still, because everyone else is moving forward. If you’re standing still, you’re really moving backwards.
HT: How has the insurance industry changed since you and your partner formed your company in 1987?
JM: Insurance companies were competing with each other on insurance products, especially major medical. Everyone wanted everything to be covered. Each would add something each year to compete, that’s what increased the price of it. So the next year, if you have cancer and your hair falls out, wigs will be covered. That’s something that was not covered in a lot of them. People wanted more to be included in their insurance, so naturally that will increase prices.
Obamacare was such a radical change, in instituting it as a law, it outlawed existing policies that were out there at the time. My policy from last year is void and no good. After 2014, I’m covered for so much stuff that you’ll never use.
HT: What is your favorite part of the job?
JM: I like going out and developing prospects, meeting people and talking about what we can do to save them money in the health insurance business. There are two kinds of people in this business, tree shakers and leaf rakers. Some people do administration, and take care of financials and enrolling. I like doing the selling and the marketing.
HT: Are you still involved in politics or do you plan to become involved again?
JM: I was in the Senate for about eight years and was a Supervisor for eight years. I’ve probably contributed my time well enough to the cause. I enjoyed my stint, and made a lot of good contacts and met a lot of people. I still do fundraising for candidates I support, but I’m not a candidate anymore.
HT: Do you specialize in working with one area of the company or do you spend equal time on each entity? What’s the average day like for you?
JM: I primarily work in what I call the retail-end promotion, trying to handle governmental affairs. We do a lot of state agencies’ supplemental products, and developing prospects in the retail end with retail agents. We have three little insurance companies, and my partner os inundated with running those insurance companies. He’s the CEO of the company and runs all the stuff in Jackson. The office there keeps him busy. He doesn’t have time to get out into the retail end of it, but that’s where your money’s made.
HT: What is the insurance market like in Mississippi and do you expect any more expansion?
JM: I think that Obamacare has made things so technical and it’s such a moving target. It’s changing on a day-to-day basis, and that’s a detriment to the small insurance agent. We have a full time paid technical advisor in our office. He stays on top of Obamacare with the Department of Health and Human Services, and stays in contact with the regulatory agency on Obamacare day to day.
Without someone like that on staff, an insurance agent is going to be at a disadvantage and can’t give people the service they need. More small agents will do cars and things not affected by Obamacare.
Anything you tell someone about health care, you can be held liable, so you better know what you’re talking about.
HT: Are a lot of customers signing up for your insurancelockbox.com? What makes it unique compared with other online services, or do any others exist?
JM: This is a service we have that’s basically an Internet site. So many people die and then their relatives don’t know what they have. This allows you to go someplace and put it in a digital lockbox, and it lists what your secrets are. When you die, that lockbox will say who can open it.
If you have a combination to a safe at home, and let’s say you have a car wreck and died today, people wouldn’t know what you had. It allows you to keep your confidential information in a safe place, and those people would be contacted to access these vital records. And who’s going to know you took out an insurance policy? The insurance company doesn’t know you died, they just know you stopped paying your premiums. Your relatives wouldn’t ever know you had insurance.
HT: What has contributed to your success?
JM: We’re expanding and I have to attribute most of our success to my partner: he’s a very creative and innovative entrepreneur. He’s a great mind for insurance and he’s developed a lot of products that I enjoy selling. The whole idea is that he thinks outside the box.
Gretchen Stone is a HottyToddy.com associate editor. You can contact Gretchen about this story at Gretchen.Stone@Hottytoddy.com

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