By Finley Hines
Amerigroup Washington strives to improve the quality of life in the communities around the state. Through its Foundation and Community Volunteers program, the company has helped a growing number of members and programs throughout the country, focusing on community improvement and encouraging safe and healthy children, families, and individuals of all ages. Since its inception, the Foundation has contributed more than $16.7 million to various organizations across the country— including more than $60,000 to Washington organizations.
Amerigroup places a strong emphasis on being active in the communities in which it serves. This past year, the company supported a number of organizations both through volunteerism efforts and Foundation support across the state. Amerigroup sponsored the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) 40th Anniversary Auction and Gala and joined the Seattle community in celebration of the Asian culture. ACRS places a strong emphasis on helping the under-served reach their highest levels of self-sufficiency. At the 2013 Gala, the audience had the privilege of hearing a courageous young woman tell her story of substance abuse, distorted cultural values, and how her ACRS case manager helped her succeed beyond her wildest dreams.
“The Gala is our biggest night of the year, and thanks in part to our Legacy Sponsor Amerigroup, we are able to continue to provide the services that lead to positive stories of resilience and inspiration,” said Joyce Zhou, event organizer and former-ACRS development director. “We were thrilled our 2013 Gala raised more than $260,000 to help support King County’s Asian and Pacific Islander community to find strength to push through adversity while maintaining their dignity and heritage.”
Additional Amerigroup support included sponsorship of the International Community Health Services’ (ICHS) 40th Anniversary Bloom Gala in Seattle. ICHS is a nonprofit community health center that offers affordable multilingual health care services to Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities, as well as other underserved communities.
Amerigroup continues to provide ongoing health education presentations for the Asian community on the importance of well-child checkups and immunizations, healthy eating, prevention of lead poisoning for children, and education on reading food labels.
Executive Q&A with Amerigroup Washington President Daryl Edmonds
Q: Tell me about the evolution of Apple Health since you’ve worked in the industry?
A: Amerigroup began serving Washingtonians through the state’s Medicaid program in 2012. At that time, the Health Care Authority added three new health plans to Apple Health with a primary focus to improve access to providers and ensure individuals and families received the best care coordination possible. The five health plans in Apple Health all strive to improve quality and outcomes, while at the same time ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent as efficiently as possible. There’s been a tremendous amount of change in health care over the last two years, and there’s still much more to come in the months ahead. With Medicaid expansion, implementation of new initiatives like “health homes” will help to provide better care for members with multiple chronic conditions, and discussion of better integration of physical and behavioral health care services. It is an exciting time in Apple Health.
Q: Could you speak a bit about Medicaid expansion in Washington and the effect it’s having on your company?
A: Medicaid expansion has had a tremendous impact on our state’s health care system. Today, many individuals, who otherwise wouldn’t have health insurance without the Affordable Care Act, have access to care; to providers who serve them; and to health plans, like ours, who coordinate their care and services. At the start of the year, our membership effectively doubled, which required a significant amount of preparation to ensure we had the resources available to care for our members. We have hired additional nurses and social workers to help our members navigate the health system, and our dedicated team works to connect our members to providers in a timely manner. We have also spent a tremendous amount of time expanding our provider network so our members have access to primary care and specialty physicians, naturopaths, clinics and hospitals when necessary.
Q: What is the greatest challenge you face with your members?
A: Our members come from diverse backgrounds and are eligible for Medicaid through different programs. Many of our members are financially vulnerable, which can impact their ability to access the care they need. Scheduling a doctor’s appointment becomes less of a priority when someone is struggling to pay rent or buy groceries. Amerigroup is committed to identifying an individual’s needs and tailoring care based on those specific needs.
Q: In addressing the shortage of health care professionals, do Asian Pacific Islander immigrants play a role in filling the gap? How can we better take advantage of the Asian Pacific Islander workforce as a resource?
A: From what I have observed about the Asian Pacific Islander (API) culture, they are very connected to their local community and have the ability to help fill the shortage of health care professionals. There are many respected leaders within the API community that are taking on the role of health care advocates and case managers in order to educate and provide information to their local community. These individuals are not only leaders within their own communities, but also function as peers to help recent immigrants navigate the health care system and connect to available resources.
Q: There are major disparities in effective health care and data for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. What needs to be done in order to address this? How can health care providers help Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders to overcome barriers to health care?
A: While I am not an expert in this area, I do believe that the first step to addressing health care disparities is to acknowledge that these barriers exist. Once there is awareness about these issues, we can then focus on learning best practices around providing culturally sensitive treatment. One way to learn about this is by seeking consultation and training from community leaders and continuing education on culturally and linguistically appropriate approaches to care.