Be bold. When I first started my business, I would sit at the back of the room in meetings. It was when I moved to the “front of the room” and started “speaking” up that it started to flourish.
Aspart of my series about health and wellness leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gail Trauco. R.N. — Patients Rights Advocate, Founder of Medical Bill 911. As a registered Oncology nurse, pharmaceutical trials expert, and licensed Grief Mediator, Gail Trauco has spent four decades helping patients navigate the sea of red tape in the American healthcare system. She is known for finding solutions when everyone else says there is no way. Her Medical Bill 911 online course and book are helping American consumers around the country get out of spiraling medical debt. Based just outside Atlanta, Gail has gained a reputation as a fierce advocate for patient’s rights and for resolving some of the most difficult medical cases in the currently crippled healthcare industry. As a lifelong healthcare professional and frequent on-camera expert, she is equal parts Gloria Allred, Erin Brokovich, and Nancy Grace.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Raised as “po’ white trash” in rural North Carolina, I experienced firsthand childhood trauma and feelings of hunger, cold, sexual and physical abuse. My grandparents raised the 5 of us — 4 girls and 1 boy — after we were abandoned by our parents. There was no running water or a bathroom in the house until I reached 8th grade. One room had a coal heater replaced with a kerosene heater in the early 1970s.
Summers were spent working in the tobacco fields and on the farm in general. We grew our own food and raised our own animals. Church and school were my social outlets. Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church often drew missionaries who were returning to talk about their work in other countries of the world. My mind, heart, and ears intently listened — dreams of visiting faraway people, places and cultures were born. The school was my favorite place in the world. Not because of fitting in — I was bullied and ridiculed because of my weight, clothing and being “smart.” I was smart and graduated at the top of my class.
Being poor had its advantages, there was no telephone and television was limited to three local channels: WRAL, WTVD, and PBS. Communication and writing skills were developed over the summer writing letters to my high school friends in Wake Forest (about 8 miles away). Books were a treasure and I read everything that I could get my hands on — most from the church library over the summer.
Life skills gained in my early years are still used today. Tax preparation was my favorite! The United States Postal Service had all of the forms and booklets in their lobby — I took as many as I wanted! At the age of 14, I completed my grandparent’s joint income tax return and at 16 completed my own. Original and copies were handwritten — “po’ white trash” had no access to a copier.
College selection was easy and one application was completed. Many of my teachers had attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My grandparents refused to buy the 10 dollars money order to accompany the application. One Saturday morning my next-door neighbor drove me to the Post Office and purchased that 10 dollars money order. The college application was mailed and I was accepted on UNC’s prestigious “Early Decision.” I was going to Chapel Hill…but had to find transportation to get there!
Growing up I knew that was “different.” I never fit in and was always observing from a higher level, which felt like a celestial plane. Maybe I learned to access the inner divine spirit after I was sexually abused as a preschooler. Our local family physician did an exam and told my grandmother that I needed a kidney transplant. The South in the early 1960s was a backwoods swamp and “hush your mouth” was enforced, including the local family physician.
We never had health insurance and didn’t have Medicaid until my senior year in high school. In 1975 my grandfather died in the office of our rural physician. He was never taken to community hospital ER across the street because he didn’t have health insurance. There was no “crash cart” in the doctor’s office. His death certificate reads “cardiac arrest.”
This rural physician retired shortly thereafter and I had to contact him at his home (using the neighbor’s telephone, of course). In the summer of 1976, I needed copies of my immunization records for a college application. He told me to meet him at his “farm” and I followed him to an abandoned barn on the property where all of the patient paper medical records from his practice were piled in boxes. He located my “file’ and transcribed by hand the dates of my immunizations onto the college form. The final disposition of an entire physician’s practice of patient records is unknown as the farm has long since been demolished and, obviously, this was prior to HIPAA!
All of these stories involve the same local family physician who had a direct impact on the development of a “zero-tolerance” policy for poor physician-patient oversight for my advocacy clients.
Can you share the interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
While working at Duke University’s Cancer Center, one of our oncologists accepted employment with a pharmaceutical company. One day he came back to visit and gave me advice that changed my career course: “You have to get out of this place and get a job in pharma,” he firmly stated. One month later I began an entry-level position in clinical R&D with major pharma. The salary was only 22,000 dollars a year, but they had onsite daycare. I attended every business school course that was offered (and that my manager would approve for me to attend!).
My DNA cellular transformation was “kick-starting” on the road to entrepreneurial rising. I sat in meetings thinking: I’m smarter than all of these people. Hey, over here, the junior staff member has your answer. One day my manager asked me to review a “contractor’s invoice and expense report.” A STAR WAS BORN!
The contractor’s pay rate was 45 dollars an hour. Quick calculations revealed the possibility of nearly a six-figure salary in 12 months IF I became a contractor. Immediately I contacted several agencies that placed contract clinical research staff and was hired for a “remote” position that required weekly travel. BAM! All of my hospital and in-house pharma knowledge was a solid foundation and it was career take-off.
Quick legal entity incorporation, purchase of a computer, printer, and desk — I was in business. In 1996, my earnings were 96K dollars. My goal was simple: buy groceries every week for my 3 sons and not have to put any items back at checkout. The first goal accomplished…
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake that I ever made when first starting was actually not my own, but an airplane that landed in the wrong city. It was a commuter flight with about 8 passengers onboard. The plane was so small everyone was seated directly behind the flight crew, a young Captain and First Officer. Oddly, the Captain slept through the flight and the First Officer was communicating with the tower. We landed. All of the passengers gasped as the plane taxied to the terminal. It was the WRONG AIRPORT!
Lessons learned from my “wrong way Feldman” experience:
- Fly in the night before for important business meetings
- Air travel is primarily booked on my ATL hometown airline, DELTA
- Report serious safety issues to the company: See something. Say something.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
YES! A new online program, Medical Bill 911 aims to help financially overwhelmed Americans navigate the frustrating world of hospital and various medical bills. From inaccurate charges to surprise fees to wrongly denied claims, millions of people are giving up on trying to fight their medical bill errors and surprise fees. In response to this crisis, Medical Bill 911 was created as a do it yourself advocacy program to aid consumers across the country.
The medical billing process in the United States is broken. Approximately 30% of all medical bills are inaccurate and contain some type of error. Neither insurers nor providers have an incentive to change the system. Medical Bill 911 is specifically designed to save people and families money, keep them out of bankruptcy, and give the exact steps people need to follow to ensure their medical bills are completely fair and accurate.
Medical Bill 911 includes six instructional videos and the Medical Bill 911 Handbook, which provide a step by step guide to dealing with healthcare providers and insurance companies. Among other things, the program recommends that consumers never pay the “full amount due” on any medical bill when it first arrives. Instead, consumers want to verify that every bill is correct and remember that most medical bills are negotiable — just like buying a car.
A first of its kind, this consumer self-advocacy resource has the potential to save consumers hundreds if not thousands of dollars on their medical expenses.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Two people have impacted my life’s journey to whom I am forever grateful. First, my high school principal, Mr. Bill Fisher, and second, a 1979 advisor for the Chapel Hill Chapter of The Experiment in International Living, Stephen Barefoot. Both are still living legends in my life.
One morning over the school PA system, I heard: “Gail King, please report to the Principal’s office” — NO one calls straight-A, white trash students to the office. Mr. Fisher waved for me to come in and sit down. “I want you to teach the Spanish classes tomorrow,” he said. “Mr. Seymour will be away and I don’t have a substitute.”
“OK, I replied,” and cried as I walked down the hallway. Speaking Spanish for me was like a fish in the water — natural! The next morning I walked into the Spanish classroom and was a substitute teacher. Mr. Fisher forced me to try on “leadership’s shoes.”
I still call him occasionally to keep the connection. He remembers me as his Spanish teaching student that almost got him fired! He bent the rules and paid me for teaching. With a Principal’s first “push” to lead, I discovered the CEO “adrenaline rush” in my DNA. Bill Fisher guided me through the college application process and as a resource for me during my undergraduate years.
Taking “risks” on a white trash farm girl left me with a much-needed boost of support and a sense of confidence. Without Bill Fisher’s influence, I wouldn’t have taken the first step to “teach and lead” and I still speak Spanish almost every day!
A local newspaper ad captured my attention in spring 1979:“Scholarship to Greece.” I quickly completed the application and mailed it. A week later I received a phone call that they wanted to interview me. Four rounds of interviews later it was announced that I had been awarded the 1979 Experiment in International Living Scholarship to Greece — becoming North Carolina’s 1979 Ambassador to Greece.
At 22, it was my first international travel destination and third plane flight. Four weeks were spent living with a host family in Ioannina, Greece and two weeks spent with the student group traveling to historic Greek destinations.
Stephen Barefoot was the Chairman of the selection committee and led the campaign to award me the scholarship. He knew that I was authentic: I wore the same dress and pair of shoes to all 4 interviews. It was the only “Sunday” dress and shoes that I owned. He ensured that I had paid transportation to the Experiment’s summer campus in Massachusetts and much-needed clothing and travel items — like a suitcase. The ambassadorship required 1 year of public speaking engagements in North Carolina upon return from Greece. Barefoot provided his own car for me to drive to events and ensuring the car was filled with gas.
Stephen’s generosity was endless. He offered me a position at his brother’s gourmet food shop “A Southern Season.” I also became the Barefoot brothers’ housekeeper, which provided additional income. Stephen Barefoot introduced me to new life experiences with involvement through The Experiment: my first TV appearance, full-page newspaper interviews, public speaking, Greek life, fine dining, and cabarets! A highly talented singer, Stephen’s tribute to The Andrews Sisters 1941 “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” placed me on a Broadway-bound search for more.
Today, Stephen Barefoot is semi-retired and owns an AirBNB in Durham, NC. When I travel to RDU, I contact Stephen to see if his room is available. He even offers to pick me up at a hotel so that we can rustle up some Tarheel “vittles.” Stephen Barefoot has no idea how his “helping hand” propelled me to develop expedited social skill development. Today I am confident and comfortable in any situation from interacting with CEOs to frequent on-camera celebrity interviews — a journey that started with a scholarship to Greece.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that will help people feel great?
- Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy: Find a licensed physician who specializes in Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy. BHRT specialists will require quarterly lab work be performed and prescribe BHRT based on YOUR specific lab results. Prescriptions are filled at compounding pharmacies. You will find increased energy, better sleep, and look and feel younger! Personally, I recommend BodyLogicMD to clients as their physicians are well trained and located nationwide.
- Sleep 8 hours daily: Wake up early and complete tasks that require your mind to be “fresh,” such as writing. Ensure that you sleep a full 8 hours uninterrupted. No nighttime TV for background noise and turn the cell phone to DO NOT DISTURB, allowing only immediate family members to call for emergencies during sleep hours.
- Reconnect with nature: Our busy lives prevent us from reconnecting with nature. Limits of “outside” maybe taking out the trash and running to the subway station. Nature quiets your mind, opens your heart and invites peace into your body’s cellular infrastructure. It will bring balance to your body, mind, and spirit.
Is there a particular book that made an impact on you? Can you share a story?
“Bombshell: Explosive Medical Secrets That Will Redefine Aging”
Reading Suzanne Somers’s book, BombShell was life-changing. Aging left me fatigued and struggling with weight management — even after a 2001 lap band surgery.
Somers laid out the basics for aging and it was simple to identify my first step to come-back: Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy. I made an appointment with an ATL based BodyLogicMD physician and went in for evaluation. Implementing BHRT gave me energy and I was able to sleep through the night. Adios menopausal symptoms!
For almost a decade I have used the same BodyLogicMD physician — Dr. Jeffrey Donohue. I just saw Dr. Donohue in July 2019 for my quarterly appointment and he said: “Gail, you look younger than you did when I first started seeing you years ago!”
Dr. Donohue is aware of my businesslifestyle as a CEO and stays on top of my lab work. He adds supplements that hefeels will help me “fulfill” my destiny. I feel great and look great! Slam Dunk, thanks to Dr. Donohue and his clinical skills. I’ve rebounded back from fatigue and manage stress with supplements.
Did you know that un-managed stress may prevent weight loss?
It’s no magic formula — but a scientific formula:
Stress x increased cortisol = excess weight
Manage that stress and maybe you’ve found my secret — managing the weight!
PS: I have Dr. Donohue’s cell phone to reach him 24/7 if needed.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Let’s start a nationwide movement and march on Washington D.C. to change healthcare NOW. President Trump signed life-changing legislation on May 9, 2019.
He needs to hear this NOW!
In my clinical work, I have implemented new DNA testing called “GARS” which is a simple cheek swab to learn about an individual’s behavioral disposition. GARS test results are the intersection of science and solution. Test results provide an individual genetic disposition toward addictive, compulsive and impulsive behaviors.
When a patient receives their GARS test results, they receive a recommended supplement that can be purchased OTC through Geneus Health. The patented neuro-nutrient restoreGen® has been genetically formulated to provide maximum results based on GARS® results.
The different formulations were scientifically developed based on the genetic risk variants a person might carry. All restoreGen supplements meet FDA GMP Guidelines and can be ordered online at Geneus Health’s website. NO physician and NO prescription required — just a patient’s DNA sample.
Some insurance companies will cover the 299 dollars DNA testing; however, most reject the claim. Why shouldn’t all insurance companies pay for DNA testing to increase and encourage healthy living? Our for-profit insurance companies prefer paying for sickness rather than good health. Medical illness is big business and there is little to no incentive for the industry to change.
GARS testing is a step toward the solution for many “disease crises” including but not limited to the opioid crisis, obesity, gambling, drug addiction, and any other addictive, compulsive and impulsive behavior. Isn’t every person worth a 299 dollars DNA test that could potentially change their life?
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As a Patient Advocate, I utilize every bit of knowledge gained from experience. This is applicable from expertise as a healthcare professional to help patients put their life in balance with “life advocacy management.” My “life advocacy management” services include medical, legal and financial needs that patients need resolving in order to “heal.”
In my early years of working with grief, there was one common denominator — everyone had a financial issue. Financial issues as a result of death, divorce, medical bills, or ongoing illness. Creative solutions to resolve “financial issues” was the development of “life advocacy management” for patients and families throughout the US. My Patient Advocacy works through life issues from a 360˚ angle. Reducing stress and finding solutions allows people to “get on with their life,” even after grief and loss.
I am blessed to be able to bring goodness to the world through numerous avenues. I use my individuality as an influencer to open doors for patients in healthcare that would otherwise be slammed in their faces. Creative avenues to find funding to pay for medication, housing or surgery know no limits. I have a strong will and always find away.
“Justice for Marion” is a new Facebook page and YouTube channel to raise awareness of seniors who suffer abuse and neglect in nursing homes. This was established in memory of my client’s father, Marion Richardson, a decorated U.S. Veteran who died in July 2019 from neglect in a Texas VA approved facility. We are creating awareness of this crisis through social media and television.
My personal home has housed a number of young gays that were disowned by their family after “coming out.” None were charged room or board and lived with my family until they were financially stable.
No local Georgia client is turned away because of the inability to pay for advocacy support. They are treated with the same dignity and respect as my private clients.
All travel expenses for TV appearances are paid from my business. Television has had the single most profound impact on delivering my advocacy messages to Americans nationwide.
I’m an immediate problem solver for airport travelers when I’m on the road and encounter travel dilemmas. For example, I’ve used hotel points to book free rooms for traveling college students. Two travelers trying to get to Chile on airline “buddy passes” stayed with my family for 3 days.
Also, late one night I was leaving the ATL airport and overhead a tearful young American telling her Mom “she didn’t have enough money” to pay a hotel. An elderly Chilean grandmother was sitting next to her crying too. Both of them joined me in my home commute and 3 days later had seats to fly to Chile.
Dog rescue. I’m a dog lover and will pick up a stray any time, get them vetted, and placed with an animal rescue for adoption. I also frequently donate money to rescues to enable them to save a dog.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Be bold. When I first started my business, I would sit at the back of the room in meetings. It was when I moved to the “front of the room” and started “speaking” up that it started to flourish. One day a phone call came from a major pharma company asking me to assess my interest in managing a “seven-figure project” for them. They had heard that I was a “clinical research regulatory diva” and could help them with a difficult project.
- Be daring. Make decisions that seem out of the ordinary. Visualize the desired outcome. Write the business plan. Sleep on it. Overthinking costs time and money. Act, strategize and delegate to an expert when necessary. Medical Bill 911 was two years in the making and is forecast to generate over seven figures in 2020.
- Tell the truth. As a small business owner, telling the truth may require you to “make that difficult phone call.” Recently, I detected questionable medical billing fraud at a behavioral therapy treatment center. I filed a report with that state’s Insurance Commission and Attorney General who are at this time are conducting investigations.
- Tell YOUR story. Learn to tell “your” story and how it impacts what you do today. Tell the real story…the heart-breaking story…shining as the “survivor” and possessing a CEO’s toolbox to keep me in front of other Advocates. I learned to “feel the heal” from childhood trauma and developed a “survival” skillset.
- Be the “Anomaly.” Being “different” was something that I have lived with my entire life. It’s a fact — CEOs are different or we would be unable to maintain the level of continued creativity and energy required to run a business. About 5 years ago I enrolled in a one-day seminar with Hay House’s CEO, Reid Tracy. I just knew that he would be impressed with my work and offer me a book deal.
- Wrong! Instead, he criticized everything that was in place from the number of followers on social media to my website. Fast forward, I self-published that book along with 15 more!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them” — Melissa Gilbert
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with my heroes, Ellen DeGeneres, and Former First Lady Michelle Obama. Imagine the opportunity to share some of America’s patient advocacy stories, such as Justice for Marion, with two powerhouse influencers and gain their support in my American movement to change healthcare.
Daily, I go above and beyond for patients who have needs. Nightly, I have to cry for some who are “stuck” in our failing system that “no one wants.” Who knows, maybe I will challenge Ellen and Michelle for a remake of “Break it Down!”
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Thank you for all of these great insights!