As an immigrant who had problems with English when I first moved to the United States, I understand the difficulties faced by immigrants trying to navigate the Medicaid application. For this reason I was especially excited to reach out to the Chinese populations in Chicago. I started by calling parents who expressed interest in applying for Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through schools. Although most parents I talked to did not qualify, I was still able to provide educational resources about Medicaid, SNAP, and the Children and Family Benefits Unit (CFBU), as many had no idea what they were. The last call I made was to a visiting scholar whose kid would not be covered under her school’s plan. After checking her eligibility, we made an appointment for her to complete an application in person. I was nervous leading up to the appointment as it was one of the first in-person applications I had done, and the very first one I assisted in Chinese. I ran through ABE (the system in which residents of Illinois apply for benefits) a couple times to make sure I knew how to translate the questions. On the day of the appointment I chatted with the client, sharing stories as we worked through the application, which helped with my uneasiness. However, I had to step out and consult with my coworkers about the best way to report her income to accurately reflect her financial status due to her special circumstances. This made me nervous again, fearing that I would look unprofessional. Thankfully, she remained patient throughout the process and was understanding of the situation.
After jumping through some hurdles, we completed and submitted the application. As we wrapped up the appointment, she thanked me, told me how she was worried for her son about his medical insurance, and that I was “an angel sent to help her.” After she left, I felt a mix of emotions--excited, honored, scared, and, for lack of a better word: good. I was excited to complete my first in-person application. I was honored that she trusted me. I was scared that I did something wrong, which made me go back to her application and double check everything. Lastly, I just felt good about how I was able to help someone. I have been in and out of hospitals since I was little due to my severe dust allergy; the idea of not having access to health care scares me. What would have happened to me if I couldn’t receive the treatments that I needed? Thus, increasing access to affordable health care has become a topic I care about, and was what motivated me to join this position. I understand I still have a long way to go and a lot more to learn, but I am really thankful for NHC and CFBU for giving me this opportunity to help families in need. This is the first step I am taking on a journey of fighting for more accessible health care, and I cannot wait for the next steps. p.s. Open enrollment is until December 15th! If you have not yet enrolled in a health insurance plan, it is not too late!
This blog post was written by NHC 2017-18 member Stephanie Liu.
Stephanie is a Benefits Outreach Coordinator with Chicago Public Schools Office of Student Health and Wellness.