A Conversation with Nikki Bagby
Nikki Bagby: I was on the board and I remember losing my job, I was working at a community center. It wasn’t paying a lot and I had my last son about 12 years ago, and I remember being in a very low income job and my husband was struggling to work. And I said, you know, let me ask one of the employees from UnitedHealthcare, Darrin Johnson. And at the time he was the VP of Sales and Marketing, and he said, Nikki you know what, this is great timing, because I am looking for someone to manage my welfare to work program. And he said, you’re good timing because I need you to do it! So from that I started my experience, my career in the health care field. And it has been a phenomenal and life changing and hard-working and eye-opening experience.
But because I had a love to serve I felt that this job and what I loved to do kind of matched. So I managed a welfare to work program. A lot of us came through the system. And just having a team of folks who understood what I was going through – understood our members – took all of us in our department and our plan to a whole different level. So they began to do the same program throughout the entire state. And we were able to do outreach, and able to talk to our members in a very holistic way.
I can think of a precious family with at the time one special little 18 month old . we had at the time our commercial van, which was wrapped with UnitedHealthcare marketing material, and a lady was looking at me, and she was like—nevermind. I said, come on over! What do you mean, nevermind? I can change your life today! And she thought that was so funny. So I guess my wonderful charisma pulled her over. She came and all she said was, I’m just telling you right now, I don’t qualify. And she said to me, I don’t make a lot, me and my husband are self employed, and I had to spend 20,000 dollars last year to care for my daughter. And I said: if you give me the opportunity, I promise you I will change your life. So that got her a little bit closer. And I just asked her questions about her income and what she thinks, and I said let me explain something to you. I said, I want you to know that today, your daughter qualifies for insurance. Because she’s under 2 she’s able to get on the CHIP program. And give me a few weeks and I’m going to change your life, I promise you. So she cries—she says, I don’t believe you. And she kind of sobbed, but a few weeks later I called her up, I said, hey, I got good news. She said, I was waiting to hear from you! I said, you qualify for free CHIP. And everything that her child needs will be taken care of. She found me at our community center, and she hugged me and wept, and hugged me and wept. This mom has been the greatest advocate for us. This had been about seven years ago and she has referred so many working families to us, and now that she has another little daughter, they’re both on our plan. And she absolutely loves us. And at every occasion, I get a call at least once every two months just to say, I love you, how are you doing, I appreciate you, and again you changed my life. So I have so many stories like that. We helped save their business. CHIP helped save their business.
We can continue to change. And my model for that is being where people are. Be at a brokers’ meeting where families are losing their insurance because it’s either going up or they’re not covering their kids anymore. Be at a faith organization on a Sunday morning or Friday morning or Saturday evening and set up a table. Be at a back to school event where the principal allows you to talk about this. Be at a provider’s office where we can set up some patient appreciation days, or at a community health fair. Just being at those places—families work. It’s hard every day. Just managing your time and balance. And the last thing we want to do is make it difficult for families to get the information and resources they need. So just being where our people are. That’s it.