Daniel Solberg recalls receiving a phone call years ago, from his grandmother. She wanted to know if the health insurance plan she was about to select was right for her. How was she to navigate her options on her own? Wasn’t there a better way? The wheels began to turn in her grandson’s mind. How could he provide seniors a less complex methodology when selecting health insurance, and use his industry knowledge for the greater good?
In 2003 Solberg created VibrantUSA to assist people just like his grandmother in finding unbiased assistance in identifying the right plan at the right price. Solberg began his career in the health insurance industry in his late teens and was embedded in the field for decades before creating his own company. Having raised his three children in Bellingham, he became an industry leader at Olympic Health Management Systems Inc. and Sterling Life Insurance. According to Daniel’s son, Russell Solberg, he and brother Robert spent their entire childhood and college years witnessing their father model how to treat clients like family.
After their father’s retirement from VibrantUSA, Russell and Robert became President and Chief Operating Executive Officers for the company. As Medicare insurance advocates, the Solbergs’ sole purpose has been to help seniors understand and navigate the maze of health insurance companies and their specific health plan options. “How many people sign up for a plan because someone says it’s the best plan on the market?” Russell Solberg said. “In order for that to be true, all people must be the same – you must have the same doctors, prescriptions, the same health – and nobody truly does. Every person and situation is unique, so what works best for you may not work best for somebody else.”
Like their father, the Solberg sons believe in the power of informed decision making. After many decades in the insurance industry, Daniel Solberg has bestowed his crusade for transparency and assisting seniors to his sons. One of the company’s first contracts with Dell computers demonstrates this pledge. Their initial program aim was to facilitate seniors receiving computers and instruction on how to navigate insurance plans online. The goal was, “to do anything and everything, whatever seniors needed help with,” Russell Solberg recalled. But in the end, seniors didn’t want computers. They simply wanted navigators to help make health insurance plans understandable.
The health insurance industry continues to experience significant tumult and sweeping changes. Through Medicare program and prescription drug coverage changes, condensed enrollment periods and providers who struggle to keep up, seniors have leaned on VibrantUSA to answer their questions. “We developed a brand name and a reputation in Whatcom County as being independent, trusted and unbiased,” said Russell Solberg. That reputation, in turn, led to relationships with providers who began to tell their patients to call Vibrant if they have questions.
VibrantUSA’s largest office is still in Bellingham and some of their first hires still work there today, most notably Vice Presidents Renee Marr and Marsha Neal. Initially brought on as IT support in 2010, Russell Solberg came on board full-time just as the company expanded into two more of the biggest counties in Washington – the Everett and Vancouver (now their corporate home) – markets. Right around the same time, they began to expand into Texas. Daniel Solberg was looking for a warm place to retire, yet still remain involved with some of their local operations.
The Solberg family has experienced catastrophic health problems within their family. Sister Dani Solberg, who at the time worked at their call center, was diagnosed with a rare cancer. “Ultimately, we put a lot of business on hold as all of our attention was shifted to Dani, from the time of her diagnosis until she passed away,” Russell Solberg explained. Several Washington state based VibrantUSA employees were so moved by her untimely death, they financed their own trips to fly to her memorial service.
VibrantUSA was founded upon a noble quest to help a family member traverse the gauntlet of healthcare insurance options. To clarify the confusion surrounding health insurance has become a business worth sharing. “Our motto is really simple,” concluded Russell Solberg. “Do the right thing.” The company supports their staff through health insurance downturns and their employee retention demonstrates their internal loyalty. Even if recommending an alternative healthcare plan costs the company money, Russell insists their policy holds true. “We help people sign up for the plan they want, not necessarily the plan that’s most beneficial for us to sell.” That kind of philosophy – where education and service is more important than sales – will likely ensure that VibrantUSA customers keep returning for many years to come.