John M. Word III, CLU, RHU, REBC, is renowned for transforming the California insurance broker's role in the small group health benefits marketplace through his pioneering technological and marketing advances since 1972.Word's belief that benefits administration and underwriting need to be simplified and streamlined for all consumers underscores his continued effort today to find the next solution, the next innovation and the next market niche for the companies' expertise. Together with Edward J. "Rusty" Brown, Jr., Word founded the Word & Brown General Agency to market and distribute health plans through California's huge brokerage community; by 1986, the company was recognized as the largest independent small group health distributor in the nation. Sensing that employers needed assistance and qualified service with Federal COBRA laws, the company launched the nation's first COBRA administration operation.In 1996, Word & Brown launched CaliforniaChoice, a groundbreaking enterprise that enables employees in small groups to select from several health plans and benefit levels within one program. By empowering consumers with true choice for their healthcare, Word created a platform that encourages health plans to compete on quality and value. A highly sought-after speaker and collaborator, Word has written numerous articles, conducted classes and delivered keynote addresses to vast audiences. Word's professional credentials include Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Registered Health Underwriter (RHU) and Registered Employee Benefits Consultant (REBC) designations. He has served as President of the California Association of Health Underwriters (CAHU), President of the Orange County Association of Health Underwriters (OCAHU), and Chairman of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) Leading Producers Roundtable program. Word is a graduate of William Jewel College in Liberty, Missouri.
Edward J. "Rusty" Brown, Jr. is highly respected throughout the healthcare insurance industry for establishing and delivering standards of performance and service designed to exceed all customers' expectations, and for enhancing the California health insurance brokers' ability to serve their client's needs and best interests. Brown began his career in the early 1970s as an agent for the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company in upstate New York, where he was the youngest producer to be honored with entry in the century-old company's President's Honors Club.In 1980, Brown transferred to the west coast to assume the role of Sales Manager for Hancock's Newport Beach, California office. Here, he built strong and long lasting relationships by focusing on delivering a superior level of service, and his office quickly emerged as the company's top producing employee benefits agency in the nation.In 1982, Brown launched his own local General Agency, Innovative Cost Concepts, and subsequently met retail producer John Word. Together, Word and Brown refined the technology for a revolutionary new group health quoting engine and developed a plan that quickly attracted thousands of brokers and their clients to the services they could offer. Major insurers, too, were eager to be represented on this new rate and benefit comparison platform and, by 1986, Word & Brown Insurance Administrators, Inc. had become the largest independent small group health distributor in the nation. Today, Brown is a leading force in the development and success of all of The Word & Brown Companies.
Michael L. Close is the Chief Executive Officer of CHOICE Administrators where he is responsible for two health insurance programs: America’s longest standing, state-approved private multi-carrier health insurance exchange, CaliforniaChoice, and the nation’s first ancillary benefits exchange, Choice Builder.Michael previously served as the Chief Operating Officer where he oversaw information technology, marketing, and strategic business development. Michael worked closely with all of the Word & Brown Companies to ensure strategic alignment between corporate short-term and long-term strategic goals.
Michael was President of Quotit Corp and HealthCompare, two national health insurance distribution platforms, before their acquisition by National General Holdings Corp. in early 2017. Michael was also President of CONEXIS, a leading benefits administration company, before its acquisition by WageWorks in 2014. Michael joined The Word & Brown Companies in 2003.
Michael’s professional background makes him uniquely suited to lead CHOICE Administrators. He has an impressive career spanning more than 25 years in employee benefits and health care. Prior to joining the Word & Brown Companies, he held senior executive positions with Health Net of California, including Vice President and General Manager for a $200 million business unit, and Senior Vice President of a $2 billion sales organization, where he managed 600 employees. He has also served as chief sales and marketing officer at American Specialty Health, one of the country's leading complimentary care organizations.Michael earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio State University. He is an active member of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU).
Tamra MacPherson is Senior Vice President of Customer Service at CHOICE Administrators, where she oversees all aspects of customer service for the organization. Tamra is responsible for development and implementation of procedures and processes to ensure a positive customer experience and the delivery of the highest levels of support to CaliforniaChoice and Choice Builder customers, as well as carrier partners. She leads the organization’s customer service strategy and directs employee performance management, establishing goals to help staff meet elevated standards of service and achieve professional growth. Tamra began her professional career at CHOICE Administrators and has experience in an array of disciplines including Underwriting, Client Services, and Customer Service, being named to her current role in 2013. Tamra attended La Sierra University in Riverside, California.
Michael Payton is a seasoned employee benefits and business development executive with 20 years of experience working with business owners, executives, brokers, general agents, carriers, and consultants. As Vice President of Sales at CHOICE Administrators, Michael is head of sales and underwriting and is responsible for all products and distribution for the CaliforniaChoice and Choice Builder private exchanges.Michael works collaboratively across the organization to develop strategic business plans to increase revenue and persistency, enhance relationships with distributors and customers, and achieve sustained, profitable growth. Previously, he owned an employee benefits consulting firm for two years, served as Vice President of Sales in the small business division of UnitedHealthcare for six years, and was sales director at a third-party benefits administrator for five years. Michael joined CHOICE Administrators in 2012 as National Sales Director for Choice Builder. He became Senior Sales Director in 2015 and was promoted to his current role in 2016.