Dr. Andrea “Andy” McGuire, president and chief operating officer for the Iowa plan, was previously chief medical officer of American Republic Insurance Co., Photo by Duane Tinkey
Dr. Andrea “Andy” McGuire, president and chief operating officer for the Iowa plan, was previously chief medical officer of American Republic Insurance Co., Photo by Duane Tinkey

Meridian Health Plan, a private Medicaid health plan founded 15 years ago in Detroit, has begun offering services to Iowa Medicaid patients. The company has grown to become Michigan’s largest Medicaid health maintenance organization (HMO) plan, with 290,000 members, and three years ago expanded into Illinois, where it now serves about 7,000 Medicaid enrollees.

Leading the Iowa health plan is Dr. Andrea McGuire, who left her position as chief medical officer of Des Moines-based American Republic Insurance Co. at the beginning of the year.

“This position was just made for me,” McGuire said. “(Meridian is) all about quality. I’m a physician by training, and I really think that insurance can be the driver of quality in health care.”

The plan was launched Feb. 1 in Muscatine County, where it has since enrolled about 1,000 members. It plans to roll out services on a county-by-county basis to serve the entire state. The plan, which specializes in serving Medicaid enrollees in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, will likely begin serving Central Iowa by the end of this year, McGuire said. Though other private plans have offered Medicaid services in the past, Meridian has the distinction of being the only private Medicaid HMO plan currently operating in Iowa. Medicaid members may opt to enroll in Meridian’s plan as an alternative to the MediPASS program, a primary care case-management system operated by Iowa Medicaid. Iowa Medicaid pays Meridian a monthly fee for each enrollee.

Meridian was founded in 1997 by Dr. David Cotton, a Detroit obstetrician/gynecologist who observed that his high-risk patients had fewer complications if they received proper prenatal care. The company, which is still owned by Cotton and his family, continues to adhere to a philosophy of preventive care, McGuire said. “We’re not an HMO in the sense of restricting care,” McGuire said. “Instead of restricting care, we want to give them all the care they need. And in the end, if you give them quality care, the rest takes care of itself.”

Meridian’s Iowa operation, which has 50 cubicles ready to fill in the Ruan Center, currently has 15 employees and will be hiring additional nurses, administrative and quality management personnel this year.

McGuire said she views her company’s relationship with the state-run Iowa Medicaid plan as “additive, not competitive.”