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Selected as participant for the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Enterprising Women of Color (EWOC) Business Center’s Business Certification Training Cohort 5A/5B

Upon leaving her job on Wall Street and moving to Hawaii with her husband, New Jersey native Martha Khlopin continued her career in investments at Bishop Trust Company, First Hawaiian Bank, and Edward Jones. As she helped clients plan for retirement and shared their excitement to travel and do other fun activities, she discovered these plans were often halted because of healthcare expenses. She began wondering, “How can you work your whole life and then all of a sudden need money for health care expenses not covered by insurance?”

This led her to begin her career in the health insurance industry where she learned that upon transitioning to Medicare, few are prepared for the many expenses that aren’t covered or would no longer be covered. Certain conditions also require health-related services that people, unknowingly, will need to pay out-of-pocket. She quickly learned on-the-job at HMSA and then in a senior management role at AlohaCare about group plans, Medicare, Medicaid, and how they coordinate, recognizing that people could lose money by not knowing how everything worked together. In 2015, she started her own agency and began her mission to help others navigate the intricacies and nuances of health insurance.

“I became this self-made Medicare/healthcare guru. I have an active agency, and separately as a community service, I spend 100 hours every month answering insurance questions,” Martha explained. “I talk to people who are retiring, furloughed, or losing health insurance for any reason, and help them avoid problems that come up when they don’t know how coverage really works—what it pays and what it doesn’t pay. You can actually get into a lot of trouble and spend a lot of money that you don’t have or didn’t need to spend.”

Martha’s expertise led to the development of a syndicated public affairs radio show, “A Medicare Moment with Martha” that airs in several regions throughout the country and locally on Salem Media, the nation’s number one talk radio network. Her efforts to help others investigate, resolve issues, and better understand savings programs, enrollment deadlines and how to avoid lifelong penalties have resulted in $1.5 million in savings over the last five years.

“No one gets paid for helping you learn, understand and navigate all timelines and options, including any employer retiree choices based on your specific situation. Salespeople in this field get paid for marketing products offered by the companies they represent,” she said. “It’s been my calling to assist people by educating them before they need to choose a specific plan. Many have called and sent text messages and emails thanking me. It makes me feel happy to assist others and I’m grateful I’m able to point individuals to the appropriate sources to make informed decisions.”

With Martha’s agency able to run itself, she can focus on helping those who feel they have no one else to turn to, especially our kupuna (elders) who are vulnerable to scams. Her approach involves understanding everyone’s unique situation and providing educational material with specific steps for them to follow before they need to purchase insurance, or if they already have a plan, to understand it better and get the most from it. In addition to one-on-one support, Martha gives presentations to various organizations that have people looking to retire, such as employers and alumni groups.

While Martha knows there’s a place for what she does, many leaders don’t give it the attention it deserves. That’s because most Americans have healthcare coverage through their employer, and any questions or concerns are routed to the insurance company’s account executives via the employer’s human resources department. But when someone needs to obtain coverage on their own due to job loss or needing Medicare, they’re often unaware of who to call or may be pointed to websites they’re unsure about. Most HR departments appropriately direct people to the U.S. Social Security Administration or other official government offices, but not knowing what to say and long wait times related to the pandemic and office closures, can make it an arduous process to individuals who’ve never had to find health insurance on their own.

Martha describes herself as a person who never gives up. She’s often asked why she’s willing to help people to the extent that she does, and some people are wary and suspicious because she doesn’t charge them. She understands that not everyone is comfortable working with someone they don’t know and has overcome this challenge by consistently helping all the referrals from those she’s served as well as many physicians, social workers, and business and community leaders. This has led her to have a fulfilling life and career.

When Martha attended business school at New York University, she was told, “The day you open your business is not when you have a business. When it’s been five years, that’s when you can say you have a business.” She’s grateful to have passed the five-year mark with continued growth. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was’s strongest year and 2021 exceeded 2020, which Martha attributes to the community in Hawaii embracing her and valuing her approach that puts the needs of others first.

Martha participated in the MBDA Enterprising Women of Color Business Center’s Business Certification Training Cohort 5A and is currently enrolled in 5B. She left the initial session with many ideas and is excited to continue learning about the certification process. Other plans for her business include partnering with the Hawaii State Executive Office on Aging, county governments, and organizations working with the homeless as well as finding funding to train people—all with the end goal of increasing accessibility to non-employer health insurance eligibility and enrollment.

To current and aspiring women entrepreneurs, Martha offers the following advice: “It’s so important for anyone who has a business or wants to start one to get guidance from the very beginning. Find and explore programs to learn, partner and connect, especially with organizations that provide support to women-owned small businesses and where you can be part of that group. Coaching is also important. If you have a coach, they’ll explore with you and keep you on track. It’s so important to be part of a group and invest in someone to coach you.”

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