Ruben Edelstein

By Bill Rusteberg

Ruben Edelstein practiced managed care in his own way. The son of immigrants, he ran a successful furniture business in South Texas. An astute businessman, he grew the business with locations throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley in deep South Texas.

I was fortunate to know him.

Mr. Edelstein ran a lean operation and took care of his valued employees. He knew each one by name. And he provided health insurance although he didn’t have to back in those days. I was his broker for many years and learned more from him than he did from me.

One day he called and said “Bill, when you are in the area, please come by to see me.”

“Of course Mr. Edelstein, I’ll be right over” I replied. I was ushered into his office, sat down and asked what was on his mind. “Well, I just noticed we received a bill for an MRI for $4,200. I think that is too high, can you do anything about this?” he asked.

I took the bill down to the MRI center and asked to speak to the business manager. “Hi, I represent Mr. Edelstein, owner of Edelstein’s Better Furniture with over 300 employees. We would like to contract with you for MRI services” I said. “Certainly, we can provide MRI’s for $750” replied the business manager. “Good, let’s start with this one” I said as I handed him the invoice.

On another occasion, Mr. Edelstein called and said “Bill, we have a first year employee whose coverage is limited to $10,000 under our plan (this was well before the ACA). She just found out she needs an emergency hysterectomy and was told the bill would be around $28,000. Can you help?”

I met with a local hospital administrator within hours and explained “I have $10,000, will write you a check right now if you can arrange a global fee of $10,000 for this valued employee of Edelsteins Better Furniture.”  The result of Mr. Edelstein’s managed care protocol: patient was treated for $10,000 the following day.

Ruben Edelstein applied common sense and prudent business practices to all aspects of his life and business. He taught me that managing health care financing was no different than managing any other business expense.  Common sense, reason and logic have no boundaries or forbidden territories.

Mr. Ruben Edelstein passed away in 2014 at the age of 96.