Connie Liu is a lawyer for the Department of Community Engagement at Hawaii Legal Aid AssociationI, one of the oldest nonprofit civil law offices in Hawaii. With 11 offices statewide, the Legal Aid Association provides comprehensive services including legal aid, financial assistance, and health insurance mobility. The Legal Aid Society recently awarded over $270,000 in federal funds as part of the 2022 CMS Navigator Collaborative Agreement awards.
In this Q&A, Liu discusses the Legal Aid Society’s plans to implement the funding, as well as prepare to end the federal public health emergency, which will prompt redetermination of eligibility for the state’s Medicaid program.
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repair status: What are the target populations of the Legal Aid Society for legal advice and health insurance navigator services?
Connie Leo: The Hawaii Legal Aid Association primarily focuses on family issues, general consumer benefits, immigration, and housing. In general, we try to reach vulnerable groups of the population. We typically target groups below the federal poverty level, and offer everything from counseling advice to full representation on these different types of issues.”
SOR: What are some of the unique barriers that target populations face in accessing the services they need?
CL: “We primarily communicate with people who have recently arrived or immigrated to the United States. Usually, when they come in, they don’t necessarily have all the documents they need to complete things like applying for things like a Social Security card, or even understanding how American insurance works. Those are some barriers, especially since there are so many different systems out there.
There’s Medicaid, there’s private health insurance – being able to understand that and navigate through it and the different rules involved can be complicated. For immigrants, having limited English language proficiency can be difficult when trying to pursue this application. We have a navigator helping with that.”
SOR: The Legal Aid Society has been awarded the 2022 CMS Navigator Collaborative Agreement Awards. How do you plan to benefit from the financing?
CL: “This is still a work in progress for us, but it really gives us an opportunity to develop communication materials. Social media is a great way to reach people, to see if that can be a viable outlet as much as providing more education to people.” [The funding] We’ll go ahead and try to support more employees as we try to think of more creative ideas on how to educate people more about insurance and how to access it.”
SOR: The upcoming end of the federal public health emergency means the state’s Medicaid program will have to re-establish beneficiaries’ eligibility status. What role does the Legal Aid Association play as the country prepares for redefinition?
CL: “We work closely with the Med-QUEST office in Hawaii. Some of the big things are reminding people to update their information with Med-QUEST so they can fill it out when they get their renewal forms. A lot of it is a boost to making sure people have updated information with them. , and the necessary documents they need in order to do any kind of any other apps in the future. A big part is just making sure people have up-to-date information.”
SOR: As part of its Navigator Cooperative Agreement Award, the Legal Aid Society has listed several organizations that will serve it, such as Next Step Shelter, Safe Haven, and Kuhio Park Terrace. How do these relationships affect the scope of your business?
CL: “Community Partners are huge in our work. This is how we are able to find out which families need help, and which consumers need help. We work closely with Lanakila Health Center, which contains a bilingual access section. It’s a center that a lot of people go to to get rid of tuberculosis. It is a common point where people come to meet people. Our partnership with them is very vital and important, and we thank them very much for their cooperation with us.
One of our other navigators is part of free association charters (COFA) Society. She is able to use her language skills and knowledge of the different activities and groups that take place, be it churches, or even a residence in the Kuhio Park towers, to Parents and children together. The ability to be there to help people who speak her language or her community understand. [She checks] If they have health insurance and if they need help with that.
Our community partners are huge, not just in our health insurance business, but often in all of our other types of business, whether our business is also homeless. In terms of going to shelters, sometimes in shelters, they’re going to meet people who need help with insurance, and you can have staff that are able to connect them to those sources.”
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.