NC Attorney General, Josh Stein

Attorney General Josh Stein

Josh Stein was sworn in as North Carolina’s 50th Attorney General on January 1, 2017. Stein is focused on protecting North Carolina families from crime and consumer fraud. 

Stein has made combatting the opioid crisis a top priority. His office drafted the STOP Act to reduce the number of people who become addicted to opioids through smarter prescribing practices and the Synthetic Opioid Control Act to close loopholes in state criminal lawconcerning fentanyl. Both laws passed the General Assembly unanimously and were signed into law by the Governor.

Prior to being elected Attorney General, Stein served as a state Senator and as a Senior Deputy Attorney General in the North Carolina Department of Justice. In the State Senate, Stein successfully led efforts to put more violent criminals behind bars by expanding the state’s DNA database. Stein wrote the School Safety Act and legislation that banned stalking using GPS tracking devices.

For his work in the state Senate, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the AARP of North Carolina each named him legislator of the year and his Republican and Democratic colleagues ranked him as the most effective Democratic senator.

As Senior Deputy Attorney General, Stein worked to protect kids from online sexual predators and to help run the payday lenders charging loan shark interest rates out of the state. 

Stein previously taught high school in Zimbabwe, served as legal counsel in the United States Senate, and worked with two economic development organizations in North Carolina.

Stein is a graduate of Dartmouth College and earned law and public policy degrees from Harvard University. He and his wife Anna have three children, who all attend North Carolina public schools like they did.

Cristy Gupton, President of Custom Benefit Solutions


Cristy Gupton is President of Custom Benefits Solutions, an employee benefits consulting firm serving WNC and surrounding areas.  Cristy has seen that shining a light on the opaque nature of the cost/quality dilemma in healthcare can transform an employer's health plan, taking it from multi-year cost increases to a zero-trend, high-performing health plan with a sustainable outlook on the future.  As she leads Custom Benefits Solutions, blazing new trails into the world of captives and group purchasing platforms, she is gaining the attention of national organizations as she attempts to reduce both the supply and demand for opiates as treatment for acute pain related to on-the-job injuries and musculoskeletal surgical procedures.  Partnering with both state and federal agencies, Cristy endeavors to reform the culture of how pain management is provided by employer-sponsored health plans.  A recent addition to the Health Rosetta Institute, an elite group of benefits advisers who employ high-performance techniques addressing the out-of-control healthcare costs in our current system, Cristy is sought after to help organizations bring their health plans back to being the employee retention tool they were originally intended to be. "

Mark Pew, Senior VP of Prium and The RX Professor

Mark Pew, Senior VP of Prium and The RX Professor


Mark Pew, Senior Vice President of PRIUM and The RxProfessor, is a passionate educator and agitator. He has been focused since 2003 on the intersection of chronic pain and appropriate treatment and how to #CleanUpTheMess. That ranges from the clinical and financial costs of opioids and benzodiazepines to the corresponding epidemic of heroin use and the evolution in medical cannabis with a special focus on the BioPsychoSocialSpiritual treatment model. Recipient of WorkCompCentral’s Magna Comp Laude award in 2016, the IAIABC’s Samuel Gompers Award in 2017, and named one of the “Best Blogs” of 2016 and 2017, he is relevant and respected. Contact Mark at, on his LinkedIn blog at, or on Twitter @RxProfessor.

Carl Schuessler, Managing Principal of BenefitStrategies, LLC and Mitigate Partners, LLC


An intentionally small “concierge” consulting firm offering a unique approach to benefits management to a select group of clients, BenefitStrategies and Mitigate Partners provide Insurance, Risk Management and Employee Benefits Consulting.

Serving as a Population Health Manager specializing in Cost Containment and Risk Mitigation, the partners pride themselves on their ability to be creative in designing innovative, optimum plans and helping companies and individuals make the most of their financial resources by serving as a Fiduciary and Steward of health plan dollars. With more than 25 years of experience in employee and executive benefits consulting and financial planning experience, Carl offers clients improved cash flow, saves money and retains top talent with well-structured employee benefit and financial planning solutions. He is also an accomplished speaker and author.

After spending the last 5 years searching for the best in class Healthcare Solutions to solve the Healthcare Jigsaw Puzzle, by integrating these to significantly reduce his clients’ health plan spend, Carl created and is trademarking FairCost, a health plan design he pioneered.

Carl has successfully networked with other trusted partners/vendors such as insurance companies, PBM’s, TPA’s, health care destinations, employee benefit communication companies, and onsite clinics. To the delight of his clients, he has a proven track record of bringing comprehensive High Performance Healthcare Solutions to businesses regarding healthcare costs, benefit design, improved medical outcomes, and improved employee communications. Carl is an employer advocate and provides easily understood solutions and encouragement to employers.

He was selected as one of the first group of 30 forward-leaning Benefits Advisors in the U.S. to participate as a Charter Member in the Health Rosetta Certification Program for Benefits Advisors. The Health Rosetta is a blueprint of best practices for intelligently purchasing health benefits that’s been sourced from the most forward leaning benefits purchasers of all types around the country. The certification program helps ensure he stays at the front of the market to better serve his clients.

The Health Rosetta’s creator, Dave Chase, recently published a book that I think you’ll find valuable that also mentions me, The CEO’s Guide to Restoring the American Dream: How to Deliver World Class Health Care to Your Employees at Half the Cost.

Carl is a native of Macon, Georgia, moved to Atlanta in 1989, and resides there with his wife, Missy and their three children, Mary May (18), Hattie (13), and Carl III (16). He enjoys children’s activities (coached 43 of his children’s teams), fly fishing, golfing, hiking, and hunting.

Karen Kirkpatrick, Owner of On Your Mark Consulting


As owner of On Your Mark Consulting, Karen continues a long career of working with insurance brokers, CPAs, TPAs and employers helping them to understand complex regulations and create action items.  Previously, she worked at Infinisource for 18 years where she gained a national reputation for being one of the foremost experts on HR Compliance, Payroll, COBRA, HIPAA, FMLA, Consumer Driven Health Plan Options, Health Care Reform and other benefit laws. During her career she has conducted thousands of seminars, webinars and executive briefings on numerous federal insurance laws, human resource compliance, consumer driven health care and health care reform. She has written or contributed to several publications, including HIU, the magazine of the National Association of Health Underwriters, ALA (Association of Legal Administrators), Thompson Publications and the National

Health Information’s Consumer Driven Health Care. She speaks at national and regional conferences including NAHU, ALA, ACCA and SHRM events on both benefit and employment related compliance topics; as well as webinars for agencies and organizations nationwide.

A nationally recognized speaker, Karen brings the audience intense payroll, HR or benefits (including ACA) regulations in an easy‐to‐understand format. She is known for not only her compliance expertise, but her ability to make sense of compliance "spaghetti" and provide the audience with actionable items and clear language to pay it forward (educate others). 

Karen brings into her firm the valuable expertise of many years of marketing and professional development experience with several prominent financial, insurance and restaurant institutions, including Northwestern Mutual, Shearson Lehman and DFR. She has been actively involved with Toastmasters International, which helps individuals become more effective speakers, leaders and listeners.

Working in these various firms as well with thousands of companies nationwide consulting for HR and Benefits, Karen has seen first-hand what mistakes can cost employers...and employees.  From Hiring through Retirement, there are thousands of interactions, laws and changes that impact an employer’s compliance levels as well as successes.  The mistakes could mean wasting a half a million dollars hiring the wrong person, to being-generous-to-a-fault when making exceptions or wanting to take care of an employee.  Those costs can also grow to a half a million dollars and more.  Karen helps employers take these risks into consideration and to implement safeguards to prevent them from happening.   She also might drag them kicking and screaming “out-of-the-box” to make changes that will propel the company to success.

Karen says this about the Affordable Care Act (ACA):  “I've had the privilege of directly educating thousands of individuals.  Coming from all walks of life and job titles in various industries.  They've all had two common concerns:  How the Affordable Care Act will impact them both in their role as an employer, as well as personally.  The duration of these sessions has been from 30 minutes to 4 hours based upon the needs of the organizations and attendees.  Attendees agree that their time was well spent and they are leaving with a better understanding of the employer's requirements and the individual's responsibility/risk than they've had in 5 years and multiple seminars.  Attendees also embrace their action items and implement ideas for employee education, plan design and technology needs quite soon afterwards (based solely on surveys and direct feedback that I receive).  HR, Finance and the C-suite can all hear the same information and use it differently based upon their direct responsibilities.  Non-managerial positions also gain an understanding of what their employer is tasked with and how they can support those efforts.  Finally, I love what I do.  I love digesting complex guidance and political speak and really uncovering and relaying what that means to individuals outside of the Beltway.” 

Karen talks of being Column A.  This means becoming the entity (agency, advisor, etc.) that all others are compared to.  You’ve completed RFPs where you know the questions weren’t written to your strengths.  You also know that by the time you receive the RFP, the buyer is nearly 80% of the way to their decision and it’s simply a numbers game.  What if you could position yourself to your current clients and prospects that could make you nearly invincible?  Products, services, technology, compliance and execution are all part of a successful business model in being Column A.  No other letter will lead to success!