4 companies picked to manage Iowa Medicaid program expect to add hundreds of jobs in state

Markets Associated Press

The big health insurance companies picked to manage Iowa's $4.2 billion Medicaid program have promised to create hundreds of jobs in the state in the coming months, according to bidding documents released Thursday.

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UnitedHealthcare projected that it would increase its existing 400-employee staff in Iowa by about 250 people. WellCare pledged it would open several offices, from Council Bluffs to Davenport. Amerigroup has already located space for a West Des Moines headquarters. And AmeriHealth Caritas said it would open three "state-of-the-art community wellness centers," potentially in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Sioux City.

Details on those staffing plans were included in thousands of pages of documents released by the Iowa Department of Human Services, which announced the selection of the companies to manage the Medicaid program Monday following a competition involving 11 bidders.

If contract negotiations are successful, the companies are expected to start administering services Jan. 1 for the 560,000 low-income and disabled Iowa residents enrolled in the program. The change, affecting how care is delivered for nearly one-fifth of Iowa's population, has been sought by Gov. Terry Branstad as a way to rein in rising costs and improve health results. Many advocates for patients and providers are worried about the transition, but some do see a bright spot in the private employment that will be added.

"They are going to bring jobs," said Kelsey Clark, interim CEO of the Iowa Behavioral Health Association, whose members are concerned about changing to new billing policies and rules. "These are large health care companies, and many will be hiring on 200 or 300 employees. It's not all terrible."

A DHS spokeswoman said earlier this year that about 40 state employees who work with Medicaid are expected to keep their jobs, with some focusing on monitoring the transition. State officials believe the transition can save about $100 million per year through efficiencies, such as eliminating unnecessary doctor and hospital visits.

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The new jobs will range from senior executives to community health workers to claims processors. The companies said their managers for the Iowa contracts and most of their employees would be located in Des Moines, but other parts of the state will benefit, too.

WellCare, which is based in Tampa, said in its proposal that an estimated 90 employees would work at its Des Moines headquarters once that's established. Dozens of additional employees will work at regional offices in Council Bluffs and Cedar Rapids, and at "welcome rooms" to serve members in Dubuque, Davenport, Ottumwa, Mason City and Sioux City, its proposal said. Some agents will work from home staffing a call center for Iowa claims. In all, more than half of the 280 workers it would add will be based in Iowa.

Atlanta-based Amerigroup said it anticipated hiring 552 employees if it won the Iowa contract, with 346 of them in Iowa. The company said it has picked out a West Des Moines headquarters, will likely open additional offices in the state and anticipates hiring some employees who provide clinical and provider services to work from home offices in rural areas.

Philadelphia-based AmeriHealth Caritas said its headquarters would be in Des Moines and the cities tentatively chosen for three wellness centers were based on program demographics. The company said it plans to hire more than 400 full-time employees, with over half in Iowa.

UnitedHealthcare said it is already looking for an expanded headquarters in the Des Moines area for when its lease in a smaller office in West Des Moines expires in December. The company said it would look toward hiring veterans and add additional "home-based or community-based staff across the state."

"We will be expanding our Iowa offices and employing more Iowans to support member call and claims functions in the state," the company's proposal wrote. "This ...will result in UnitedHealthcare employing Iowans to care for Iowans."