WEST DES MOINES, Iowa 54 year-old Neal Siegel was a financial consultant with a bright future, that changed in 2013 when he suffered a massive brain injury after a hit and run while riding his bicycle.
Now Neal's loved ones says since privatization, his Medicaid is being slashed in dramatic fashion. They see a lawsuit against the state as the only way forward.
Beth Wargo has stayed by her boyfriend's side since the injury which robbed him of his motor functions, speech, and independence.
She says she was stunned when she saw a notice from Neal's managed care provider, saying his financial aid was being slashed by more than half.
“Shock, pure shock, and panic is exactly what happened. It was one of those things where it was like ‘oh my goodness, what am I going to do at this point? Now what?’” said Wargo.
She says the cuts mean that the 10 hours of in-home care Neil was getting would be cut back to just four. Wargo fears if the suit isn't successful, Neal would have to be placed in institutionalized care.
“It’d be the worst thing ever that could happen. This is where he lives, this is what he knows, this is his home. The accident’s taken a lot away from him, so anything that we can give him back, that’s what he’s owed” said Wargo.
Wargo says it would be especially devastating because Neal was the subject of abuse and neglect when he was in a facility early on, claiming in the lawsuit Neal was “once found locked in his room, screaming, and covered in his own waste” among other allegations.
Wargo says if she could speak to her she would ask Governor Kim Reynolds why Neal's aid is now managed by for-profit companies.
“I would say look at Neal, and (ask) why would you give it to a managed care op whose end goal is to make money, and how would you make money off of the disabled and the poor” said Wargo.
At a press conference Governor Reynolds did not directly address the lawsuit but expressed her willingness to look at parts of the government that aren't working.
“We should always be looking for ways we can provide those that need the services to be able to provide for them in an efficient and effective and coordinated way” she said.
Disability Rights Iowa, who helped write this lawsuit, hopes changes will be made.
“We do have hope with the new governor and the new DHS director that there’s a possibility of at least sitting down and really talking about who these individuals are, what their medical needs are, and what the managed care companies should be providing for them” said Legal Director Cyndy Miller.
Wargo says Neal's care will be funded at pre-privatized levels until the courts make a decision.