Marcus Autism Center treats 5,500 children with autism and related disorders each year. For a busy parent looking to enroll his or her child into the largest autism center in the country, the enrollment and treatment processes can be overwhelming. It’s up to Kevin Jennings, Program Coordinator at Marcus, to take some of the stress of beginning autism treatment off the parents’ shoulders and help them navigate the process. Kevin works with families on developing financial plans, coordinates grants for those who qualify, negotiates with insurance companies and assesses availability to help get new patients into treatment.
5:30 a.m. Kevin’s a morning person, and he’s usually up before the sun. “I like to start my day early and take time for myself before going into work. I’m also
a news junkie, so I usually watch CNN Headline News while eating breakfast.”
6:45 a.m. Arriving at Marcus well before Atlanta traffic gets rough, he grabs a cup of coffee and settles in for the day. “This is the best time for me to get work done with no interruptions,” he says. “Families start arriving around 8 a.m., so I like to go over all my projects and schedule time for my most important tasks right when I get to work.”
8:00 a.m. As a National Institutes of Health Autism Center of Excellence, slots at Marcus are in high demand. Kevin’s responsibilities include keeping tabs on how many spots are available at any given time—from wait list to treatment updates to discharge. Keeping current on when spots open up allows him to provide anxious parents on the waitlist relief as soon as possible. And letting families know there’s an opening for their child at Marcus is one of Kevin’s favorite things to do. “Sometimes they’ve been waiting as long as 10 months, so to hear their excitement is so rewarding,” Kevin says.
11:00 a.m. Kevin introduces himself to a new family coming for treatment. “It’s nice for us all to put names with faces after talking so much on the phone,” Kevin says. He makes sure their paperwork is all set, that they don’t have any unanswered questions and that they know he’s there to help however he can.
12:00 p.m. Time for a quick lunch; Kevin usually grabs a bite at his desk, reading the news online while he eats. “It’s an addiction really; I always want to know what’s going on in all corners of the world, so any time I have the opportunity I’m checking the news,” he says.
1:00 p.m. Kevin spends his afternoon negotiating rates with insurance companies, and he considers this to be one of the more challenging areas of his job. “Getting an insurance company on my side is a hard sell,” says Kevin. “Working with insurance agents is all about building relationships— helping to make sure that those who authorize reimbursements understand our unique programs through clinical documentation and treatment plans. At the end of the day, my job is to make sure insurance providers have everything they need to offer a fair reimbursement to our families.”
3:00 p.m. Treatments at Marcus can range from day clinics to recurring outpatient appointments to home-based treatments—all of which can be expensive. Kevin spends some time explaining the billing process to a new family and answering some of their questions. He’s even able to find a grant to help the family offset the cost of the treatment and helps the family fill out the application during their time together.
4:30 p.m. Things are winding down and Kevin checks email and ties up a few loose ends. After one last check with the registration coordinators, he heads out the door.
5:30 p.m. Making his way to a gym in his neighborhood, Kevin is looking forward to spending some time working out. “Whatever is quick, easy and helps me feel accomplished at the end of the day is what I enjoy,” he says. “I try to mix things up based on what I’ve spent the rest of my day doing. If it’s a stressful day, I like to run it out, but if it’s a lighter day, I like to make things a little more challenging.”
8:00 p.m. After his rewarding day, Kevin unwinds by watching television. Because he’s an avid sports fan, he’s usually tuning in to ESPN. “I really do love all sports,” he says. “I’m a huge Florida Gators fan, and I never miss a game.”
9:00 p.m. Kevin finalizes plans for an upcoming visit to Florida to celebrate his niece’s first birthday. He’s one of three boys in his family, and although his family lives out of state, he tries to make it to celebrate all the big milestones for his two nieces.
10:00 p.m. Because he’s early to rise, Kevin is also early to bed. He likes to spend some time reading and winding down from the day. “It can be hard to switch your brain off when it’s time to go to sleep!” he says. “At the end of the day, I just try to relax and get ready for the next. I love what I do, and I have families counting on me. I want to give them the best I’ve got, because I know they’re going through so much. If I can even help one family feel better about their experience at Marcus, I know I’ve made a difference, and that’s a great feeling.”