Letters of Appreciation – from our Members


Dear Brothers and Sisters,                                                                                                    12.10.2019

As you may know, the world of healthcare benefits is a daunting one to navigate. Our Local is comprised of more than 700 members which means not a day goes by that we don’t have someone dealing with some sort of healthcare issue. Having been the Local’s Insurance Advocate for more than four years and now the Local President, my work would be far more difficult without the assistance of Paul and Hristina from TBS Insurance who manage our union-sponsored voluntary supplemental insurance program. When I say manage, I should clarify that they do everything short of actually stitching up the cut or putting the cast on that broken arm. For brevity’s sake I won’t share a full origin story but, about a decade ago we identified some glaring holes in our primary healthcare coverage. It became clear we needed supplemental coverage that worked for our members, not another corporate plan. My experience with insurance carriers, healthcare providers, and assorted administrators is rarely positive, so when I can genuinely say our experience with TBS is 99% positive, I know how incredible that truly is.
My intention was to keep this letter concise but, truth be told, if I were to do Paul and Hristina any justice at all it would be pages long. I could attach every testimonial letter, e-mail, a transcription of every phone call and conversation from satisfied members who have used the supplemental plan. Instead, I think one of the best indicators is the fact that we have a majority of our members enrolled. We continually make the effort to gain members each year because we know how valuable the plan is and to keep premiums low. The evidence is clear when you consider we’ve utilizing the plan to the tune of more than $2,100,000 for our Local. If the numbers aren’t compelling enough, it should be noted that the most of our membership know Paul or Hristina by first name in a facility where many don’t know mine—many even manage to say Hristina’s name correctly!
I write this letter from a professional standpoint as a union brother, committee member, and of course my role as President. Personally I wanted to write the letter so that our members and other locals can understand the great experience we’ve had with the program, with Paul, and with Hristina. I would highly encourage anyone to work with TBS to consider these benefits as a way to insure your financial stability when the unforeseeable happens and to construct a similarly beneficial plan for their membership
In Solidarity,

Gerald Kell
Local 21 President


May 26, 2018

Paul, When I heard you were working with other Locals (to protect their members when sick or hurt) I felt compelled to write about our experience with you and Hristina. You have done more for USW Local 21 than I ever believed possible. I didn’t realize there was so much protection available to the working men and women. Please share this with anyone you feel would like to hear about our experience with Total Benefits Solutions (TBS).                                                                                                                                                      My name is Bryon Branstrom. I served on the bargaining committee of USW Local 21 for 13 years (2 years as insurance advocate, 4 years as vice president and 7 years as president). We work at a papermill located in Escanaba, Michigan and had about 830 members while I was president but like everyone else our numbers have steadily declined and we are currently at about 660 members.

As president I sat across the table (in the homes) of many of our hurt or sick members listening to the familiar concerns of how they were going to make ends meet. To say the least these were very stressful times for these members and it often became an emotional conversation because of the anxiety of not knowing how the bills were going to get paid. I’m very relieved to say that times have changed for our members over the past 8 years.

We first met Paul in 2008, about 6 months before we were heading into contract negotiations. Because insurance was our main topic of discussion, Paul helped us prepare for negotiations and actually came to the bargaining table with us. He would literally spend hours going over the documentation the company provided us and on several occasions found mistakes in their data. One time he found an error of several hundred thousand dollars.

Paul and his partner Hristina have been serving our members since 2010. They have provided our members with short term disability, long term disability, group term life insurance, critical illness and an accident plan. To date we have over 450 members enrolled and our members have received in excess of $1,500,000. The great thing is that it doesn’t end with just being an active member. TBS has worked endlessly to help our retirees by steering them in the right direction pertaining to health care or other benefits as they prepare for the “golden years”. And as if that isn’t enough, they make themselves available by literally spending 2 days a month (first and second Wednesdays) at our union hall just to address any questions/concerns our members or retirees might have.

Even with everything I mentioned above, to me the most remarkable asset of Paul and Hristina is their devotion to our members. They are relentless when trying to find us the best providers out there, always trying to get our members the most bang for their buck. Even more unbelievable is how they handle any questions/concerns we have as a local. I recently emailed Paul/Hristina asking about the benefits for a member that had fallen off a roof and suffered head injuries. This person was unconscious for several days but Hristina personally showed up at the hospital to guide the family through their coverage and to assure them that she would personally walk the paperwork through the system, and she did. You can’t imagine the relief this brought to the family. This isn’t an isolated case as many times I have contacted TBS to inform them of a member in need and they immediately reached out to the family and comforted them by assisting them with every step of filing a claim. The comfort they bring to these families is priceless.

I truly can’t say enough about Paul and Hristina and Total Benefits Solutions (TBS). It’s difficult for me to put into writing just how much passion they have, combined with an unbelievable amount of energy. I welcome any calls or emails if anyone has any questions or if someone just wants to talk about our experience with TBS and how it has changed the lives of our members. I can be contacted by calling 906-241-0950 or email me at bbranstromusw21 [at] yahoo [dot] com. Thank you for taking the time to read this and please consider TBS for your members. You will be thankful you did.

Bryon Branstrom


Local 2-21

September 25, 2017

To USW Local 21 Members:

On November 6th, you, as a member of USW Local 21, have the opportunity to take advantage of the disability insurance offered through Total Benefits Solutions during the open enrollment period.

When I first walked across the bridge nearly 30 years ago, never in my wildest dreams did I think my career might end after three MRI’s and two lumbar surgeries with no relief in sight.

I think back to January of 2015, the date I enrolled in TBS’s supplemental disability insurance. At that point, and with no claim history under my belt, I had no idea that Paul and Hristina of TBS would care any more than any other insurance company. Boy was I wrong.

TBS made enrollment simple through a payroll deduction. When I did become disabled due to a fall last January, TBS was there to help with the claims treating me with the utmost respect for my condition.

Most of all, TBS gave me something that seems forgotten in today’s insurance industry, outstanding customer service.

None of us ever think we’ll need to call on disability insurance, but without it, and their help, my accident would have been a catastrophe. I encourage you to protect your own future by enrolling during the open enrollment period.

Lastly, I would like to thank Paul and Hristina for all their help and keeping me whole during this very trying time.


Mark Lemerand



Local 2-21

June 14, 2017

Dear Paul and Hristina,

First of all, I would like to thank the two of you for providing me the excellent support while I am recuperating. Any person that has to deal with insurance companies should experience your willingness to be the go-between of company to policyholder. The help both of you have done for me is something I will never forget. Knowing that I can call and get answers the same day is something that the other companies should follow. Kudo’s to TBS for being a great and awesome service to our Local.

Again, thank you for your help and services. I am a truly a happy customer of your company. Not many people can say that about an insurance company! Our Local was very blessed to have you and Hristina on our side with the service and customer care you give to each individual.

Happy Customer

Karen Maggart


Local 2-21

July 1, 2016

Thank you Paul!!                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Great Customer Service!

Mike and Kim Rabitoy


Local 2-21

Hi Paul,

I am retiring – so I will be canceling my “Short Term” Disability policy. This policy was worth it’s weight in “Gold” as I was off for 3 months this past year having total knee replacement surgery. The extra money really came in handy. As you know “A&S” is very little coming in when you’re used to a steady pay check and have bills to pay. Thank you for bringing this affordable policy to our Local.

Sue Raredon


Local 2-21

May 24th, 2016

Hi Hristina,

Thank you for all the time and effort you put into helping the retired personnel collect their PRO money from Verso. You have been and are very helpful in getting answers and info to us. It is now working well again. Often times people are worried about getting issues resolved and forget about the people who make it happen.

Thank you,

Tim Pach 


Local 2-96

June 25th, 2014

I want to thank Paul for all the great services he has provided me through our local union. All my claims were processed in a timely manner, any questions I had were answered promptly and professionally. Thank you for the great services you provide.

Terry Lundbom

Local 2-21

May 22nd, 2014

I would like to say Thanks to Paul and Hristina for all the hard work they have done on my claim. Without their diligence and hard work I am not sure when I would have received my payments. Being off work for as long as I have been the money is very welcome. Even when there was a review of my benefits their constant concern was a blessing. I would recommend their services to anyone.


Fred Nordman

Local 2-21


I received full payment for my wife’s accident from Lincoln. Thank you so much for your help.

Another Happy Customer ;)

Honestly though, you do a great job!

Joe Curran

Local 2-21

I would like to thank our very caring and knowledgeable Union Committee Leaders for thinking of all our well beings by offering each and everyone of us an opportunity to purchase extra insurance –  either the Short Term, Long Term, Critical Care any or all of these policies are such a much needed and no brainer choice for us to make for the well being of ourselves and our family.  I myself thought when it was first offered, “Oh come on more money out of my pocket…do I really need this?”  Well yes, unfortunately it turned out for the worst and I did need it and so very glad I purchased the policy.  How this works is you pay the low cost premium – easy ideas how to come up with the extra cash… empty your pockets/wallets each day with loose change and only $1 bills, throw them in a coffee can, shoebox etc… end of the month count it out and you will be surprised at how much is there.  And God forbid if you ever have to use your insurance policy there are wonderful, caring, concerned individuals who are on top of their game when you need the help. There is always Paul, who knows the policies inside and out, speaks from experience as to how valuable extra insurance is and WOW his enthusiasm is breath taking (I thought I was hyper).  Our local guy Mike Nantelle who has a passion for helping and offering us anything that will be to our benefit, always gives me a quick reply back to all of my questions and truly understands what’s going on.

I have received Short Term checks from both Humana and now Lincoln , the transition was so easy because they did all the work for me and the checks are TAX FREE.  I cannot stress enough at the importance of buying into the extra insurance and speaking from experience it is like receiving another paycheck always delivered on time and much needed.

I hope this helps you and answers some questions you might have as to why you haven’t yet purchased the policies!!  If I can help in anyway, please feel free to call me anytime.

Thanks again to everyone,

Chris Quaghebeur

Local 2-354

We looked at a few plans and liked this one best. A plan for 55-65 years old is a good idea with a pool of Union members. I would like to see vision and dental plans added.


It is a very good idea to put a plan together for the Union. We need all the help we can get.

Thank you,

V. Pestka

Local 2-21

I want to thank Paul and Hristina for the time and effort that they put in for me to get the benefits that I was due and had some trouble getting. They went out of their way and I got everything coming in for me. Hats off to TBS Inc.



May 20th, 2013

To Fellow Union Brothers and Sisters,

Back in September 2011, Dan and I signed up with Total Benefits Solutions. After talking with Paul Baeten, he set us up with what he thought we needed and that we were satisfied with. I believe we updated our policy once or twice since the initial sign up. It was the best move we made.

October 4th, 2012 Dan had successful shoulder surgery. From 10/18/2012 to 1/30/2013 Dan received disability checks during that time that added up to $2,971.44. Then when Dan passed away suddenly on January 29th, 2013, Paul and TBS jumped into action. They filed for Final STD which was $600, Wellness Benefit $100, and Critical Illness Benefit worth $5,000.

Believe me during this difficult time, Paul, Hristina and TBS really cared about my family. If we had to do it all over, we would have signed up at a much younger age. It definitely paid off. Because you just never know what can happen.

Thank you,

Sue Roberts
USW 21 Member
Newpage Corporation

Our relationship with Total Benefits Solutions (TBS) started over 8 years ago. Our Union local was preparing for negotiations. My job was to help prepare a case for our bargaining committee to lay the ground work for an argument why we should be allowed to maintain our PPO for our insurance plan. Mr. Baeten came to a USW Presidents meeting in Negaunee while we were preparing for our negotiations. After our local President listened to Mr. Baeten speak regarding the future of company sponsored benefits, he was convinced that Mr. Baeten could help us prepare a case and also help our Local with many of the gaps in coverage that our local was experiencing.

I called Mr. Baeten the next day. The rest is history! After meeting with Mr. Baeten and his team, we prepared a case that not only produced evidence that our PPO was sustainable, we also negotiated a deduction slot for future Union benefits. Mr. Baeten along with his team has brought our insurance protection to another level.  We have had members of our local that would have had nothing coming in as far as an income if it were not for TBS and the education his team has provided us.

As the months and years have passed we have leaned on TBS for other benefits that have become necessary because of cuts to our company plans. We are currently working on a plan to sweep our entire membership and educate them on the loop holes or doughnut holes that are plaguing our members.  I have been called at all hours of the day and night from our members. I have cried and hugged many of our members in their hour of need. Unfortunately, many have not prepared for disaster. My local President and I realize that we are all only one diagnosis away from bankruptcy. Company’s today are looking at any possible way to cut costs. Benefits seem to be in the crosshairs most of the time.  If we aren’t proactive we will be placing ourselves in harms way.

Mr. Baeten and his team at TBS have always been there for us. Insurance companies are not always easy to deal with and can make your day very frustrating. Mr. Baeten doesn’t work for the insurance companies. He works for us! I’m proud to say that my Local is a much more prepared Local with Mr. Baeten and the TBS staff at our side.


Mike Nantelle
USW Local 2-21
Insurance Advocate

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