DES MOINES, Iowa — UnitedHealthcare, one of Iowa’s managed care operators (MCO), announced it is leaving the state’s privatized Medicaid program. The company covers about 60 percent of the Iowans who are on Medicaid.
After her husband passed away, Amanda Harris says she relied heavily on UnitedHealthcare for herself and her four children.
“They’ve done therapies with the children since he passed away, we’ve done several different extensive treatment plans, and they’ve paid for those,” said Harris.
It is why she was initially disappointed when she got a letter in the mail from DHS telling her she was being placed with one of the remaining MCOs, Amerigroup, but that disappointment quickly went away.
“I was extremely scared and nervous until I did start reading some of the benefits, and there was different benefits as far as taking care of kids’ Boys and Girls Club, sending exercise equipment for people who have been deemed obese, and I’m like ‘wow that wasn’t with UnitedHealthcare, that’s pretty awesome,’” said Harris.
Some people aren’t as happy as Harris. State Auditor Rob Sand says having another MCO drop out of the marketplace reflects poorly on the program.
“I don’t think anyone would dispute that the rollout of this plan was done unilaterally and done too quickly. I would hope that people who have the power to influence literally the lives of Iowans would take their obligations more seriously than that,” said Sand.
DHS Director Jerry Foxhoven feels otherwise. He says UnitedHealthcare left the system because Iowa refused to agree to waive millions of dollars in withholdings over performance metrics, and that letting a company walk shows that the program is strong.
“I think the message it sends to other companies throughout the country is that if you want to come here you have to agree to perform, and if you don’t want to perform and if you think that we’ll let you off the hook and let you collect money and not be held accountable, this probably isn’t the state for you,” said Foxhoven.
According to the contract signed by UnitedHealth, they must stay in the state until all their clients have been assigned to the remaining providers. Foxhoven says that Amerigroup and Iowa Total Care have assured him they can handle the extra patients. Harris hopes that’s the case.
“We all need Amerigroup in our lives and hopefully they’re ready for us,” she said.
Iowa Total Care is scheduled to become a provider on July 1. There’s no word yet on when UnitedHealthcare will actually leave. Officials say they’ll have to come to an agreement with the company on that. UnitedHealthcare did not return a request for comment.