Navigating Healthcare Financing to Bring Psychology to Those in Need
Bankers Healthcare Group
As a psychologist, I have been very fortunate to work in several countries—Brazil, Hong Kong, The Netherlands, Mexico, and Sweden—and observe the differences in healthcare systems. Sadly, in the United States, we have a two-tiered healthcare system. Whoever has money gets great care. If you have no money, you get substandard care. Throughout my career as a psychologist, I have established high-quality, Evidence-Based Programs in community agencies that treated families of troubled youth who did not have the money to pay for private services. I knew that one day, I would focus more of my efforts in direct service to those who needed my help but could not afford it.
Since 1995, I have been a licensed psychologist in New York, and received my Florida license in 1998. In 2000, I started my private practice, but for many years, it had always been a small, part-time endeavor on top of my academic career at the University of Miami.
I decided that I wanted to build my practice in a bigger way before I retired. Last year was 10 years before my official retirement date, and although I knew I wanted to decrease my time at the university and build my practice, I hesitated to take the first step. Eventually, I began to feel uncomfortable about my hesitation. I realized that I had to honor my word to myself to fully establish my own work. I did not want to set up my practice just for the sake of saying I did it—I was motivated by something bigger than myself.
Now was the time to fulfil my mission of helping those who were marginalized by our health care system. I wanted to contribute to the community by offering high-quality service to the people who could not afford my services while hopefully making enough money from the people who could in order to fund my community work.
Navigating My Solo Path: No Longer Walking Alone
Between 2004 and 2007, I took a break from my academic career and focused solely on my private practice. I was doing it in solo and it was lonely. It was not intellectually stimulating. I missed the collegiality and intellectual debate at the university, which is what has kept me there for so long. When I began planning private practice, I knew I did not want to launch my venture alone, so I reached out to another colleague who also wanted to work part-time in private practice.
Working with someone else would help me handle the influx of work. We needed a business plan and would have to consult with lawyers and accountants. We also require office space, furniture, and a clerical assistant. All these things are expensive, and so I needed a loan for business development.
I also thought about a financial cushion for times when patient flow would be slow. The hurricane season can be rough here in Florida. If people are not coming in, there is no revenue, so I thought a business loan would give me a little breathing room to ensure the bills still get paid. Another option would have been to use my personal savings, but thought that was not a wise thing to do if you are 55 or older.
New York Calling: Taking a Leap of Faith
If there's another option, you should use it. That’s around the time I discovered Bankers Healthcare Group (BHG). I started receiving direct mail from BHG last year. At first, I’ll be honest, I thought it was junk mail. But eventually, I actually opened an envelope and read the contents. In hindsight, I can’t believe the synchronicity—it was an offer for a business loan.
It took some time to pluck up the courage, but I eventually decided to call BHG for more information. The person who answered the phone was also from New York and I almost cracked up laughing at the coincidence. To me, it was a good sign. She offered to do a soft credit check to see if it would be a good fit, and I actually qualified for an amazing loan.
The BHG team was so excited for me—a vice president even called to give me the news. They said my credit score was exceptional and they were going to give me terms that I knew were fair; I just couldn't turn it down. They had a low interest rate, I could afford to pay, and it was spread over three years. I knew that since I had a sterling professional reputation, if I put my efforts into this business venture, I would be successful in three years. The loan terms made me feel very comfortable, especially since I knew what I could achieve within that time frame.
Small Business Loans: Not Just for Physicians
I realized that this was not just a loan—this was a gift and a strategic business decision. A former colleague of mine, a psychiatrist at the University of Miami, had told me that when he started his practice 15 years ago, he got all of these loan offers from banks. He shared with me that physicians typically receive such healthcare business development loans. So, as a psychologist, I had created mental limitations for what was possible based on what I had heard in the past.
When I first spoke to BHG, it was a simple inquiry. It led to a loan because of the response I got. I could not believe that BHG’s loans were for psychologists, not just for physicians. It was a paradigm shift. The reality of it is, had they not written to my office, I would not be so far ahead with my business plan as I am today.
I had all the necessary documentation and along with my high credit score, got my loan approved in March 2018. I received the money in less than 10 days, so I immediately got to work to build my practice. Needless to say, it’s been a busy few months.
Since my partner and I first got together to form our private practice, we have expanded into a group of four psychologists, and hold meetings every two weeks to go over our business plan. We are now doing the financial and legal work. I have meetings with my lawyers, my personal accountant, and now a tax accountant who is very skilled in business practices.
We set an ambitious deadline to start the group practice in September, so there's a lot of work to be done. In one year, I expect it to be thriving. I expect us, as individuals, to gain more revenue than if we were doing private practice on our own. We have also committed to offering pro-bono services to the community.
Honor Your Training, Save the World
Psychologists in private practice are in need of this level of financial support. It has become a career of diminishing returns with managed care. I can openly say psychologists have not been as politically aggressive as their medical counterparts in taking on insurance companies, and that has hurt the profession. As a group, we tend to be nice people who want to save the world, but then end up with a salary that does not honor our training and our expertise. On top of that, many of us do not even know about resources like BHG.
Physicians know they need financing because they have huge capital startup expenses, so they naturally think about a business loan. I do not think that psychologists do, so I really commend BHG for expanding into this niche market. More psychologists can find the resources they need to make their own dreams come true—they just have to start looking.
Today, I feel better than ever about my decision. I am only at the start of my new journey, and the road ahead may l be challenging. But, I know I will be providing families with the best care money can buy, even if they cannot buy it.