Q&A: AlohaCare CEO Francoise Culley-Trotman shares Med-QUEST integration update


Nicole Pasia


Francoise Culley-Trotman is the CEO of AlohaCare, one of Hawai‘i’s largest health plans. In this Q&A, Culley-Trotman gives an update on the Med-QUEST integration contract awarded to AlohaCare earlier this year and other ways it’s working to support economically and socially vulnerable communities in the state. 


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Nicole Pasia: In March 2021, the Department of Human Services announced AlohaCare would be one of five health plans that will receive a Med-QUEST integration contract. The new contracts came after DHS announced the need to address the “evolving needs of the community” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hawai‘i has seen increasing unemployment rates, thus higher Medicaid enrollment numbers. How will AlohaCare address the need for more coverage under the contract?

Francoise Culley-Trotman: “AlohaCare is honored to be able to continue our dedicated services to our state’s Medicaid-eligible enrollees with this new Med-QUEST Integration contract. We have been proactive in our responses since the pandemic began, and we’re fortunate to have an excellent statewide staff and community outreach infrastructure in place that enables us to be nimble and effective in our response to the increased enrollment.

We prioritized provider services; beginning with provider assessments via interviews and surveys to determine how we could better meet the challenging times they too were trying to navigate. We renewed our commitment to all of our providers by expediting payment processing, assisted with launching telehealth services, and partnered with their staff to facilitate patient scheduling, address social needs, help with transportation and approvals to optimize outcomes.

We enhanced or expanded vendor partnerships to provide either additional, more streamlined or more comprehensive services to members. For example, we adopted a new platform that transformed how we communicate and engage with our members to eliminate barriers that may interfere with their ability to get the care they need. We’ve seen a positive response to implementing customized options including text messages, social media, email, and in-person visits with our staff who live in the neighborhoods we serve. This system also allows us to disseminate timely information and alerts regarding COVID and natural disasters.”

NP: What next steps can we expect to see from AlohaCare in the coming months from the contract process?

FCP: “Our state contract requires a comprehensive readiness process that we have been focused on during the last several months. Now that all of our readiness review activities have been approved by Med-QUEST, we’re excited to move forward to rolling out and implementing many new initiatives to benefit our statewide membership.

We are reaching out to members, providers, and community partners to promote our programs in addition to ensuring members make the most of their comprehensive medical care. This includes a new telehealth platform, increased health coordination services, and a focus on social determinants of health initiatives that includes for example, AlohaCare being a community sponsor of UniteHawaii, through which we will facilitate the integration of health and social services.”

NP: What sets AlohaCare apart from other health plans, especially in terms of supporting Hawaii’s Med-QUEST eligible individuals?

FCP: “Our Value-Added Services (VAS) are one way we support our vision of whole-person care. We have extra benefits like basic adult dental, Native Hawaiian healing services, and support for adults who want to complete their high school education.

Since 2019, AlohaCare has provided basic adult dental services at no extra cost to its Medicaid members, because oral health is strongly linked to one’s overall health. We hope to encourage preventive vs. critical-need dental care.

We have incorporated culturally integrated care, including coverage for traditional Native Hawaiian healing practices such as ʻai pono (eating well), hula, lomilomi and hoʻoponopono (a practice of reconciliation and forgiveness), which are vitally important in a culturally-rich environment like Hawaiʻi. These practices encompass the concept of Ke Aloha Mau, or what we refer to as culturally responsive VAS.

AlohaCare has added a comprehensive education benefit that will help our members to be able to complete the GED test or high school equivalency exam.

We are proud of our member services, which reflects our corporate culture of aloha and compassion. As a result, going the extra step for our members, often done by staff who live and work on the same island or neighborhood as the members they serve, is what truly sets us apart. For example, during a recent brush fire on Hawaii Island, our Hawaii Island supervisor proactively immediately contacted all of our members in the affected area and helped them to evacuate to a safe location.”

NP: There has been a growing need to focus on community-based health care and supporting low-income, vulnerable communities that have been disproportionately affected during the pandemic. What other initiatives is AlohaCare working on to support the health care needs of Hawaii’s most vulnerable communities? Are there any projects or partnerships that you are particularly excited about?

FCP: “AlohaCare strongly believes that it’s our kuleana, or responsibility, to serve as stewards for the betterment of our larger community, especially those who continue to struggle with their social and economic circumstances. Our external partnerships and initiatives that give back to the community includes a variety of grants, student scholarships and charitable giving. 

One way we do this is through our Access to Care Grants. These grants help support the efforts of providers and organizations who share our goals to improve access to low-income individuals and communities. In 2020, we selected three outstanding nonprofit recipients that prioritized delivering mobile care to the underserved in their communities (Malama I Ke Ola, Healthy Moms Healthy Babies and Residential Youth Services and Empowerment – RYSE).

In 2021, we are developing and awarding additional grants with a wide array of community partners to support workforce development, social determinants of health and professional and technical assistance. A few of these include:

    •     Hawaii Island, launch maternal telehealth pilot project
    •     Hawaii Residency Program, Child and Adolescent Fellowship Program
    •   Hawaii Appleseed Center, policy briefs on social determinants of health/healthy housing
    •     Hawaii Primary Care Association, Patient Centered Medical Home certification

We just awarded our annual education scholarships to four individuals and this fall, we’d like to prioritize our charitable contributions in the areas of women and children, food security and housing. We look forward to continuing to partner with the amazing nonprofits and healthcare organizations in Hawaii to support programs that help meet the needs of our local communities and deliver care where it is needed most.”

State of Reform received comments from AlohaCare via written statement.