To start, Norm Springer would like you to know he is for freedom. The now-retired Springer started his career in the jungles of Vietnam. After a year at the Infantry School as an executive officer for a training company at Ft. Benning, Georgia, the young infantry leader would fly into Vietnamese territory on Hueys, leading his platoon on search and destroy missions.
Fifty years later and Springer can look back on those experiences to recognize who he is. But that isn’t a particularly useful way to understand who Springer is: a leader, a seeker, a no-B.S. insurance professional, and a veteran of the US Army and several insurance companies.
Glancing back after returning home from Vietnam, Springer got hooked up with American United Life (now OneAmerica) in the Group department. “They assigned me to their Chicago office,” he recalls. “I was there for about two years until they wanted to move to Milwaukee. I was not interested in moving north. I was much more interested in moving south,” he says with a laugh. “So we parted ways and I got started with Crown Life in Atlanta.”
His tour of duty in Atlanta lasted a few years until he was asked to lead their Washington, D.C. group office. “I did that from about 1976-82,” he recalls, until Crown closed their Group operations entirely. While his feelings toward D.C. may have been on the downswing just as the country’s politics continued to change, there was one silver lining about Washington: “I met my wife Kathy while working at Crown,” he recalls. They remain happily married today. Mrs. Springer just retired last October.
Wanting to be near his parents and other family members, Springer sought work with the then-Indianapolis-based Society National. “They put me in charge of their agent development and once I got there I found out there was a long list of predecessors that didn’t last that long,” he says. “And I didn’t last that long there.”
American Community was his next tour stop, and the one he’d stay with the longest at 26 years. Their Marketing Director role required Springer to travel the state, educate agents and consumers, and offer seminars — often at Health Underwriter events. American Community ended up being taken over by the Michigan Insurance Department and closed operations in 2010. This occured just after the Affordable Care Act took effect during the Obama administration.
“They met their demise financially,” he says. In his semi-retired state, Springer could have left the industry entirely. But his active P&C license combined with the significant amount of change stemming from the ACA kept pulling him in. A brief time at Farmers Insurance was “not necessarily the direction I wanted to go, so I became a consultant for Hunt Associates.” The agency requested additional consulting work as they navigated the dense forest of ACA language, policies, and guidance or lack thereof.
When work dried up, Springer and Lee Hunt’s gentleman’s agreement for consulting services ended. “I’d like to call myself retired now,” he says although he still carries his insurance license and provides insurance to family and friends who may want assistance.
That doesn’t mean he still doesn’t have opinions about where and how things are going inside the industry. “You see a lot of ancillary products after Obamacare. The government isn’t going to be able to take care of every issue for everybody.”
“I think the political environment has become so toxic that one side is for socialism and the other for freedom, and being a veteran I’m for freedom,” he says with austere candor. “I see the country going toward a single-payer system unless we get more people to realize that competition is better.”
Like all opinions, his experiences are what shape his. “I went to the VA Hospital for a few years and the doctor I saw was fairly new to the VA. He came from private practice. I asked him what made him come to the VA. ‘Well, I have less paperwork to do and my time is more my time now. I only have to see a certain number of patients every day and then I don’t have to see anybody.’ He could come into the clinic, see his quota of patients, and then his day was done.”
Springer continues, “That tells me he had no incentive financially to see more patients or go that extra distance to help them. He also had no incentive to develop new procedures or innovate. Going to the VA I was able to observe also the excessive time it would take to make an appointment for a hearing test. These are typical of single-payer health care systems.”
And like the camaraderie people on the front lines of challenges develop, Springer is quick to emphasize how much Health Underwriters has meant to him. A member for nearly 40 years, Health Underwriters has helped him seek and identify new patterns and skills to help his career. “It’s benefited me and formed many relationships over the years. And you know, it was a great experience to be able to go to all the conventions and Capitol Conferences. It certainly expanded my knowledge of the industry as it evolved.”
“There’s probably a lot of people that know me and I don’t know them,” says Springer with a grin. In a case where the position sought the person, the former leader and board member of both Indianapolis AHU and the Indiana State AHU received significant name recognition in the 80s and 90s. Until, he said, “It was time to let some younger folks take over. So I became less active.”
Today, Springer lives in Central Indiana with his wife, Kathy. When they’re not traveling and he’s not golfing, the couple is taking care of two of their grandsons, ages 3 and 5, or visiting with one of their five children or 9 grandchildren.