Bend company benefits employers

Business creates employee info for medical, dental, other benefits

By Joseph Ditzler / The Bulletin / @josefditzler

What: Communication Partners Inc.

What it does: Created BenefitElect, an automated health insurance benefit enrollment program; also creates informational campaigns to help employees understand the scope of their company benefits

Number of employees: 24 total: 11 in Bend, seven in San Diego and six in India

Pictured: Doug Lonergan, president

Where: 132 Crowell Way, Suite 200, Bend

Phone: 541-323-1600

Online: www.commpart.com

Talk to Doug Lonergan about his business background and almost immediately you’ll hear the unconventional.

“I knew a guy that I had met at an ice cream stand in Nassau, the Bahamas,” he said. That encounter inspired him to quit his job as head of sales with a multimillion-dollar packaging firm in Chicago and move to California. “I sold everything I owned but my airplane and my clothes and moved to San Diego,” he said.

In the mid-1970s, he started Communication Partners Inc. by hiring writers to boil down inch-thick contracts detailing company benefits into eight-page summaries for their employees. Communication Partners still does that, but it’s grown into an information technology company, specializing in enrolling employees or clients online into their companies’ health insurance plans.

State corporation records list Lonergan as president. His business card, however, lists him as “chief peddler.”

“I put that on there because it gets such a fun reaction,” he said.

The company grew to 24 employees and still has a branch in San Diego, where writers and graphic artists create enrollment campaigns for their clients. The Bend office works with BenefitElect, the program the company created that provides a one-stop online site for employees to manage their health care and insurance benefits, Lonergan said. He said thousands of people around the country have used that program to manage their insurance benefits.

“We’re a national company,” he said. “Our business is everywhere.”

Lonergan moved to Bend for many of the same reasons cited by other businesspeople: a good airport nearby, a collection of IT people already here and great surroundings.

“It was an easy choice,” Lonergan said.

Among its hundreds of clients are CST Brands Inc., which operates Valero gas stations and convenience stores; Integris Health, Oklahoma’s largest health care system; and USI, a leading insurance brokerage firm based in New York, according to Lonergan.

“We build the system that allows employees on a year-round basis to enroll in and manage their employee benefits,” he said. “And what it does is, it synchronizes all of the data between their payroll system and all of their insurance companies, so it is really not just for employee transactions, but it tells the insurance company who is eligible for the benefits. And it generates all of the billing records to the insurance companies for those eligible benefits.”

Communication Partners already occupies a place in the health care economy coveted by other firms, Lonergan said. He said he’s looking to further capitalize the company and grow it to meet demand for its services.

“Honestly, we are on the front edge of an explosion,” he said. “Our system really manages at the corporate level every aspect of a company’s health care and dental, vision and other plans.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815,

jditzler@bendbulletin.com

Q: Where do you see the company in five years?

A: Truthfully, I think we will be much larger. The world as we know it now really sells insurance through brokers. And, I think, everybody, starting with the brokers, realizes it will be technology that sells insurance. People are going to buy insurance through these public and private exchanges, which is why there’s a mad dash to be in the space that I’m already in.

Q: Would Communication Partners have considered taking on a job like Cover Oregon?

A: I’ll caveat it not knowing the extent of the work, but I would say that if we were given enough money and enough time that, yes, that’s right in our wheelhouse. But it would have taken significant development and a fair amount of time. I cannot imagine where all the money went.