GRIMES, Iowa — UnitedHealthcare plans to exit Iowa’s medicaid program this summer. Earlier this week, the Medicaid director addressed the communities concerns at a town hall meeting.
The meeting didn’t calm the nerves of some. Channel 13’s Whitney Blakemore spoke to a Grimes couple who are among the thousands having to select a new insurer.
“It’s been tough. You know, Alzheimer’s is a difficult disease and [there’s] new challenges all the time,” Nicky Bender said. For the past 10 years she’s been caring for her mother-in-law, Tilly, who is suffering from the disease.
For the past five years, she’s been caring for Tilly every single day.
“Hi. How are ya?” Nicky Bender asked Tilly as she entered her bedroom.
Bender quit her job to be there to care for her mother-in-law full time.
“Is that pretty good?” Bender asked while feeding Tilly a cinnamon roll.
Bender can afford to care for Tilly regularly thanks to Iowa’s Elderly Waiver System. They receive about $1,000 a month through Medicaid coverage.
Repeatedly, the family was forced to switched different management companies. In those transitions they went months without payments.
“It put us in a pretty tough position because we wanted to make sure she was cared for,” Bender said. “I’ve always said, since day number one, whatever is best for her, regardless of what that means for us, we’re going to do that.”
Back in 2017, when Amerihealth Caritas pulled out, they went nine months without that money.
“Knowing that I was going to work every day at the job that I had and not getting paid; it devastated us. I have to own some of that too in budgeting and financing and all of that, but it really did devastate us. We lost our home we lost pretty much everything,” Bender said.
Now, Unitedhealthcare is leaving the program, so the Benders have to switch again.
“We know no matter what happens, or what kind of assistance we get, we’re going to take care of Tilly. But what that looks like, and the unknown, is very fearful because it hasn’t gone well up to now,” Bender said.
They say they have to be their own advocates.
“If I have to spend an hour making phone calls and trying to figure something out, that’s an hour I can’t be with her,” Bender said.
It is time that the Benders say is precious.
“All I want to do is take care of my mom, and make sure that she has the best quality of life that we can give her. That’s all I want to do and I just want what she’s owed contractually.”
The Benders tell us they’ve already reached out to one of the new management companies and were told to expect delays.