Careers that put University of Findlay alumni at the forefront of the current COVID-19 pandemic are normally assumed to be directly related to working in the healthcare field as a doctor, nurse, therapist, or another position that involves direct patient care. There are, however, many alumni doing “behind-the-scenes” work that isn’t immediately on the frontlines in hospitals and triage units, but that is as equally paramount to making the country healthier during this new way of life. For Jon Binder ’11, and his career with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, making a difference in the lives of Americans who need assistance is an everyday part of the job.
Binder works for HHS in Baltimore, MD as Director of Operations for the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Financial System (MACFin). “Our mission,” he said, “is to modernize and streamline the systems used in processing more than $550 billion in annual Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program CHIP expenditures for over 74 million low-income and disabled Americans – 23% of the total U.S. population as of 2017. We are all working hard to implement changes to our Medicaid systems to accommodate all of the COVID-19 testing and treatment.” Binder’s specific role as head of operations for Medicaid and CHIP Financial (MACFIN) is to map out and document a service design blueprint for how existing systems will be used and to improve functionality to meet this new challenge. “Under the new CARES Act, Medicaid reimburses states for any testing and treatment of uninsured Americans, and right now more and more people are losing their jobs and becoming eligible for Medicaid. We have seen a surge in new applications and the CARES Act mandates that Medicaid reimburse states for COVID-19 related healthcare expenses for the uninsured.”
In his younger days, and upon nearing the end of his secondary education in Maryland where he was raised, Binder said he knew he was going to go to college, but wasn’t sure where. “I applied to five schools and was accepted to all of them,” he said. “Four schools near Maryland and one small college in Ohio that my grandfather [UF Board of Trustees member from 2003-2012, Don Carter] recommended I investigate.” Binder visited Findlay and said he was fascinated by the small-town feel and loved the small class sizes and more personalized attention from professors. “Most of the larger schools I toured felt huge and I was worried I would be treated like just a number and not a student,” he continued. “I wanted to be able to speak with and get to know my professors and discuss issues that I didn’t fully understand or that I disagreed with. I decided on Findlay and I don’t regret that decision.”
Binder said that Findlay was the perfect fit for him for many reasons, one of which being the ways to get involved on campus. He got busy on campus quickly with things like serving as the president of the Investments Club and hosting the radio show “Money Lunch” on UF’s student-run radio station 88.3 WLFC. “I have many fond memories of living in Bare hall, going to Henderson dining hall and watching movies at the AMU,” he said. It was a joyful period of life for Binder, spreading his wings and making plans for the future, but, as it was the beginning of the recession, it was also an unnerving time, particularly for a student like him who was studying international business and economics. As a result, he was keenly aware of the burgeoning financial crisis starting to play out in real time beyond campus. “There was a tremendous amount of fear and uncertainty during that time,” he explained. “Studying business and economics at a time of extreme crisis in the global economy and graduating into a deep recession left a lasting impact on me.”
With the help of some UF professors, specifically, professor of business Dr. Chris Ward and assistant professor of economics and finance Dr. Greg Arburn, Binder was able to see a bit of light during the darkness of the recession. Ward, he said, helped him to secure an internship in logistics at local business Findlay Machine and Tool. That internship, he said, provided for him the experience needed to land his first job after graduating in May 2011 – the peak of recession-led unemployment – with dual-major degrees in international business and business management and a minor degree in economics. “I am thankful to Dr. Ward for getting me that internship. It really helped prepare me for ‘real life’ and got me a job when very few organizations were hiring,” he said.
It’s rewarding and noble work for Binder, who said he wouldn’t be able to serve his country in his current role if not for the “valuable education and experiences” that he received from UF. “Findlay helped prepare me for the real world by providing me with a rock-solid foundation of both hard and soft skills that are valued highly in today’s job market,” he said. “My career is worth it because I know that every day I’m working to empower over 74 million Americans who are part of the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance programs. By improving the COVID-19 Medicaid reimbursement process, we can advance the level of service we provide to all 50 states and five U.S. territories during this time of extreme budgetary and healthcare system stress and uncertainty.”
Coinciding with his pride for being an Oiler alumnus is the endowed scholarship in Binder’s name, the Jonathan Binder ’11 Scholarship Endowment Fund, available for businesses students with a 3.0 GPA and above.
Binder resides in Maryland with his wife Emily, a realtor, and the couple’s six-year old daughter Juliana.