“I am thankful to be facilitating access to care,” an interview with Linzay Shirahama

By June 24, 2020 No Comments

The Project Access NOW Premium Assistance Program provides assistance for middle income people who aren’t eligible for free insurance through the Oregon Health Plan but can’t afford private insurance premiums. This year, the program has already served 480 families. Recently, the program has been working to reach out to clients remotely and help Oregon residents through the changes that have taken place since COVID-19, including job loss, income changes, and new health concerns.

This week, we are featuring an interview with Linzay Shirahama, Premium Assistance Program Manager.

Linzay hiking near Estacada with sister, Lacey, and German Shepherd, Zuke.

Tell us a little bit about yourself – what brought you to Project Access NOW and the Premium Assistance Program specifically?

I grew up in Portland and moved overseas for a couple years. After I came back, while I was looking for work, I really came to appreciate the access Oregon has to healthcare through the Oregon Health Plan. This strengthened my interest in the health field, an area I was already interested in working. I knew I wanted to make a difference, but not in direct service (like in a hospital or as a nurse). I applied to the Outreach Enrollment and Access Team during their pilot year (in 2015) and went door to door helping people sign up for the Oregon Health Plan. Within two years, my knowledge had grown, and I transitioned to Project Access NOW’s Premium Assistance Program. I love it! It’s like figuring out a puzzle. Helping people figure out their income and getting them healthcare, is fulfilling. I am thankful to be facilitating access to care.

If Project Access NOW didn’t exist, what would happen?

Without Project Access NOW many more people would be without health insurance. The Marketplace is difficult to navigate, and you need knowledge of technology to use it. Deadlines are really tight and taxes, premiums, income, etc. can be confusing. Even choosing healthcare plans and deciding what you can afford is difficult. Even “affordable plans” are not affordable for many people.

How has COVID-19 changed your work?

We have been calling individual clients to check in. The changes to do with job loss, unemployment, and health concerns can really affect access to health insurance. We are trying to give information that individuals need to survive and thrive during this time.

What is one thing you want the public to know about your work?

Our staff is standing by ready to help! The best way to contact us is by phone, our staff is skilled at talking through just about any issue. Reach us at: (503) 345-7031

Thank you to Linzay and all our staff on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protects immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. The 5-4 ruling was written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor (Source: CNN).

For more than a decade, Project Access NOW has been fighting for the rights of families regardless of immigration status and communities underserved by our current healthcare system. Especially after the 2017 passing of Oregon Senate Bill (SB) 558 (“Cover All Kids”), we have taken action to enroll children and teens younger than 19, regardless of immigration status. Our bi-lingual team is reaching the undocumented Spanish and Russian-speaking community to spread information and reduce fear. We partner with the Kaiser Kids Program, TV Jam (who produces Spanish-language educational videos), and other community partners to spread information and enroll children newly eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Inclusion, equity, and diversity are fundamental values at Project Access NOW, and we work to respect the dignity of all who we work with and serve. We strive to create an environment that respects and includes diverse perspectives, traditions and experiences. In 2021, we commit to furthering equity throughout our organization.

What Options Exist If You’ve Lost Job-based Health Insurance? (Video)


More at: healthoregon.org/coronavirus

COVID-related information for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people and allies

The use of face masks is important for public health and safety during a pandemic. But it makes communication more challenging for Deaf and hard of hearing people. People wearing face masks may try to speak with a Deaf or hard of hearing person, but the Deaf or hard of hearing person might not be able to understand what the person is saying because so much of the face is covered or even know the masked person is trying to speak to them. See tips below for how to communicate with Deaf and hard of hearing people when you are wearing a mask, as well as tips for Deaf and hard of hearing people to communicate with mask wearers.

COVID-19 ASL Resources from Oregon Department of Human Services:



All of us at Project Access NOW

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