Late Medicaid payments spark an eviction threat to one Newton mom and her disabled daughter
Anita Kacmarynski’s landlord is running out of patience as the Newton woman struggles to gain full payment from the private companies running Iowa’s Medicaid program.
The landlord sent an eviction notice this week to Kacmarynski, whose main source of income is Medicaid payments for care of her disabled adult daughter, Heather. Like many other care providers, Kacmarynski says she’s had a devil of a time wringing payment out of the national companies the state recently hired to run the giant public health insurance program for the poor and disabled.
She said she only was able to pay half of her $850 rent in May, then couldn’t pay any of it in June, July or August. This week, she received a “Notice to Quit,” from her landlord. Unless Kacmarynski immediately paid $2,950 in back rent and penalties, the letter said, the landlord would go to court and have her and Heather, 23, evicted from the house they’ve rented for three years.
Kacmarynski seemed stunned as she discussed the situation Friday. When asked where she and Heather could move, she shook her head and shrugged. “I don’t know," she said. "Good question.”
The private companies began running Medicaid April 1. Some of the most consistent complaints about delayed payments have come from people like Kacmarynski, who receive payments under a program called Consumer Directed Attendant Care. About 6,700 Iowans use the program, which is designed to provide flexible care for disabled people who otherwise would need to live in a facility.
Kacmarynski first signed up with Amerigroup, but after she wrestled with that company for payment, she switched to AmeriHealth Caritas in June. Her final $1,700 check from Amerigroup finally arrived this week, she said, and she’s using much of it to pay toward her debt to the landlord. But she still was owed $2,000 from AmeriHealth, she said.
An AmeriHealth spokesman told the Register Friday morning that his company hadn’t received any bills from Kacmarynski. Kacmarynski scoffed at that Friday afternoon, saying she submitted bills online with extensive help via telephone from a contractor for the company, who walked her through the process line by line.
She showed a reporter her cell phone, which listed 11 contacts with AmeriHealth’s help line. One call earlier this week lasted 58 minutes, the phone showed. “I don’t know. Was I sitting on the phone talking to myself for 58 minutes? Do I look like I have time to do that?” she asked, wearily.
The landlord, Brenda Long, told the Register Friday that she wouldn’t really throw Kacmarynski and her daughter out on the street. Long, who owns 14 rental homes, said she’s frustrated that Medicaid managers weren’t promptly paying Kacmarynski. She said she’s known the mother and daughter for several years, and used to attend church with them. “I know her situation and I’m a very compassionate person,” Long said. “I’m keeping her from being homeless, and they’re not doing anything,” she said of the Medicaid managers. “I’m footing the bill.”
The landlord said she hoped the eviction letter would give Kacmarynski leverage to wring payment out of the Medicaid management firm. It appeared to work, at least after the Register contacted AmeriHealth about the family's crisis. The AmeriHealth spokesman said Friday afternoon that a manager had ordered payment to be made to Kacmarynski. So at least for now, the mother and daughter apparently will have a roof over their heads.