In August of 1996, Medicard Finance Inc. (Medicard) was formed to offer financing to persons seeking elective medical procedures. At the time there was a growing demand for reconstructive surgery, laser eye treatments, skin resurfacing, cosmetic dentistry and other procedures not covered by the public health care system. The increase in demand was attributed to advances in technology, a decrease in recovery time (post-surgery) and increasing acceptance of cosmetic procedures. In fact, the private sector market expenditures showed a staggering increase of 35% per annum. Ann saw an opportunity to exploit a growing elective surgery market and an opening to step into finance procedures where the government was cutting back. Her goal was to become “the facility” that Canadians would think of when seeking financing or information for medical procedures. She wanted Medicard to be “Canada’s medical finance and information company.” Ann hired a market research company to determine the trends and define the target market. With a driver and a map she also canvassed physicians and clinics in all the major cities across Canada to present the concept, seeing as many as thirty-five physicians in one day. With outside research and much input and advice from the financial community, a business model was built that provided incremental business to the doctors and unsurpassed service to Canadian patients. A sensible, confidential finance and information facility that could provide fast approvals and competitive financing was established.
Ann presented Medicard to financial institutions for funding. It was a tedious process, yet the research and pro formas showed a demand and an ability to facilitate through third parties while recognizing a comfortable profit. Her business model, associations with Canada’s financial wizards and support of the Canadian finance community in general enabled her to open doors to larger institutional lenders. Ann borrowed money to take her through the six-month due diligence process that resulted in a decision by Bank of Montreal to back Medicard.
By December 1997, legal and licensing requirements had been met and physicians were registering for the program. A significant investment in computer accounting and technology to manage the business had been made. A marketing package was ready. Ann had a country to conquer. Through appearances at trade shows and utilizing the physicians to market to the patients, the business grew. It took thirteen months to book the first million dollars in loans. It took a month to book the second million.
Medicard is now the largest medical finance company in Canada with over 3500 plastic, reconstructive and dental physicians registered with the company to offer financing to their patients. Hair restoration and laser eye clinics, as well as other elective care facilities are also establishing relationships with the company. Through natural progression and to facilitate demand, Medicard has expanded to offer medical equipment leasing and third party collections for dentists and physicians. The company is also moving south of the border and into Korea as a loan originator. If the criteria for business success is finding a need and filling it, Ann Kaplan is well on her way.