Tsu-Yin Wu, an Eastern Michigan University professor of nursing, has been awarded a federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Navigator cooperative agreement award of $794,730. Under the CMS grant project, Wu will act as the project director, leading the endeavor to make health coverage more easily accessible to communities.
Serving the communities within the Michigan counties of Calhoun, Kent, Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne, the target population of Wu's project includes Asian Pacific Americans, refugees, low-income individuals, pregnant women, new mothers, women with children, and those eligible for Medicaid who are not enrolled in coverage. However, if an individual is not included in the target population, they cannot be denied the assistance of the CMS grant project and CMS navigators.
Through federal cooperative agreement funding, navigators are federally certified individuals who work within communities to assist in the sharing of information and to aid in the enrollment of health insurance through the Federally-Facilitated Marketplace (FFM). Wu leads a team of bilingual navigators who are trusted voices in their communities, helping limited English proficiency groups in the process of accessing and obtaining coverage.
"One of the specific stories is that the wife of the restaurant owner needed the treatment to take care of the cancer, and they did not used to have the health insurance... Our navigator helped them to select a healthcare plan that [fit their] current needs, and the wife was able to go out for the cancer treatment," Wu said.
Outreach is also present in the form of partners within communities. These community relationships are with community and faith-based organizations (such as churches, temples, and mosques), small businesses, the Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce of Michigan, Michigan Asian Pacific Americans Affairs Commission, community centers (such as Chinese Community Center in Madison Heights, Philippine American Community Center of Michigan, and Korean American Cultural Center in Southfield), Michigan Asian Pacific Americans Legislative Caucus, and health systems (such as Hamtramck Federally Qualified Health Center).
The award spans a total of three years, with the awarded amount varying each year. Currently in the midst of the second year, this year's funding runs until August 2023.
Wu has been engaging in CMS navigator work since 2014, with EMU becoming a grant recipient in 2018. Over the past eight years, navigators have been able to expand their knowledge through state and federally funded CMS training. Currently, some realms of navigators' knowledge are lead poisoning prevention, breast cancer screening, diabetes, and chronic disease. In 2021, the African refugee community also became a focus, with five African navigators being certified this year.
"I think health is priority, without a doubt... You need to have the vehicle to make this as your priority, and so I think the healthcare coverage is the vehicle, and then definitely, that it's a human right... I think this grant that we obtained from the federal agency, which is CMS, helps us to achieve that goal for people who experience the health inequality, so we are very blessed," Wu said.
EMU is one of 59 organizations across the country to receive this award in 2022.
Open Enrollment for 2023 Marketplace health insurance ends Jan. 15.