Guest Columnist

CEO can pick people or profits

In this Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, photo, part of the UnitedHealth Group, Inc. campus is shown, in Minnetonka, Minn. UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s fourth-quarter net income slipped 1 percent, as growing medical costs countered revenue gains for the nation’s largest health insurer.  The Minnetonka, Minn., company said Thursday, Jan. 16, 2012 it earned $1.24 billion, or $1.20 per share, in the three months that ended Dec. 31. That compares with $1.26 billion, or $1.17 per share, in the last quarter of 2011.(AP Photo/Jim Mone)
In this Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, photo, part of the UnitedHealth Group, Inc. campus is shown, in Minnetonka, Minn. UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s fourth-quarter net income slipped 1 percent, as growing medical costs countered revenue gains for the nation’s largest health insurer. The Minnetonka, Minn., company said Thursday, Jan. 16, 2012 it earned $1.24 billion, or $1.20 per share, in the three months that ended Dec. 31. That compares with $1.26 billion, or $1.17 per share, in the last quarter of 2011.(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Last week it was announced that Bror Hultgren stepped in as the interim CEO of UnitedHealthcare of the River Valley (UnitedHealth). He replaces Kim Foltz, who left Hultgren a mess.

It’s no secret that Mr. Hultgren will be heading a company that has been plagued by controversy over its handling of Iowa’s privatized Medicaid. Yet, this change in leadership provides Hultgren an opportunity to make things right with everyday Iowans.

UnitedHealth is one of two private, for-profit, managed care organizations administering Iowa’s Medicaid program. Nearly 420,000 Iowans depend on UnitedHealth to ensure their care and quality of life. Sadly, since the switch to managed care under the Branstad/Reynolds administration in April of 2016, UnitedHealth has time and time again failed to provide adequate care to the Iowans they serve.

We have heard countless stories over the past two years of services cut or outright denied, payments delayed for hundreds of care providers, and an appeals process that is far from consumer friendly let alone transparent.

Stories like that of Jamie Campbell of Fontanelle, whose approved home care workers’ hours were cut over 50 percent. Or Cody Trent of Greenfield, who needs 12 catheters a month but UnitedHealth decided that beginning this year they would only pay for one a month.

Stories like Country View Estates, a care facility in Guthrie Center, that still is owed over $300,000 from UnitedHealth to cover the care they provide to the 21 Iowans with disabilities in their care. Or Michala Stull of Creston, who provides care to her disabled uncle but whom UnitedHealth will only pay for a fraction of the hours of care she was previously paid for.

These, and thousands of others from across our state, are the stories Mr. Hultgren needs to hear. When hearing these stories, Hultgren should take immediate action to show that UnitedHealth cares about us, not just dollar signs.

Among the things Hultgren can do as he steps into his new position are:

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• Stop denying medical equipment claims and start providing the catheters, wheelchairs, etc. that provide a quality of life to our Medicaid recipients.

• Stop cutting the counseling time case workers need to fully diagnose an issue and prescribe a solution. (i.e. approving only 45 minutes vs. 60 minutes)

• Stop denying the previously approved hours that home care workers are paid to care for people on Medicaid in their homes, rather than the more expensive alternative of shoving people into facilities, or worse, leaving them to die.

UnitedHealth is our nation’s largest health care company, and its profits have seen double digit percentage increases over the past several quarters, leaving it with billions in net income. This current, and established, track record shows their mission has been to put profit and their bottom line ahead of people — our neighbors, our loved ones, our family — at every turn.

Mr. Hultgren can change this. He can say enough is enough. He can tell UnitedHealth executives and the people of Iowa that humans are more than a dollar sign. It is our hope that he will do this immediately.

• Tom Mohan of Cedar Rapids is a board member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

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