We had the good fortune of connecting with Simoine Kenya and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Simoine, how does your business help the community?
Numerous social and economic barriers keep Black and Brown Americans from accessing quality healthcare. From poor health literacy to insurmountable medical bill debt, these glaring issues become major stressors for individuals who may already need medical attention.
The goal of The Healthcare Plug (THP) is to completely eliminate these stressors through free patient advocacy services that go beyond traditional physician referrals. By fronting major costs, like prescriptions and copayments, we reduce the amount of time and money it takes for individuals to find compatible healthcare providers. In helping members of marginalized and/or medically underserved communities, we are also reminded of the effects of their lived experiences in America. We believe cultural awareness benefits the doctor-patient relationship, so we pair each patient with doctors who can relate to the full individual. Our complete service list includes: providing physician referrals, assistance navigating the U.S. health insurance marketplace and other health insurance platforms, arranging non-emergent transportation, sponsorship and delivery of necessary COVID-19 supplies to individuals and families in quarantine, providing health education relative to free health screenings, etc., and covering the costs of office/specialist visit copayments, prescription costs, as well as granting limited financial assistance for the purpose of relieving medical debt.
Specifically, systemic racism has had an enduring effect on Black and Brown people’s health, and is often linked to a person’s income, education, housing and access to ongoing medical help. Minority communities are disproportionately affected by disease and its negative outcomes, due to limited financial resources and distrust in physicians and other medical professionals. When disadvantage takes as many forms as it does for minorities, it quickly becomes difficult and overwhelming to find assistance. The Healthcare Plug exists to increase access to healthcare for marginalized and/or medically underserved populations, and to ensure quality experiences, regardless of the patient’s race or identity. Our services help these individuals take charge of their health, and promote healthcare affordability, adequate health coverage, and racial & ethnic equity in healthcare.
We believe that The Healthcare Plug will completely transform the healthcare experience for Black and Brown Americans, because we focus on the truth that there is a clear overlap in the needs of our community members. Many of the inquiries we receive are from individuals that need a combination of health insurance, physician referrals, and some form of financial assistance. The coronavirus pandemic has greatly increased the demand for our advocacy services, and has led to record-breaking amounts of medical debt, job loss, and financial strain for millions of families. Our current goal is to support and serve at least 3,000 unique individuals annually. Over the course of the next decade, we are envisioning a healthcare system that is much more representative of the melting pot it serves. We are hopeful for positive changes in health policy, and eager to have involvement in the developments that are bound to result from the advancement of biomedical technology, and telemedicine.
When individuals and families within our network report increased feelings of safety and improved medical conditions, we know that our organization is impacting the entire world. In addition to increasing the amount of regular doctor’s visits available to Black and Brown people, we are fervently working to revolutionize the personal standards of care for our Metro Atlanta population, and beyond. We want them to feel comfortable trusting and seeking help from physicians and other healthcare professionals in our network. If The Healthcare Plug can bring city-wide solutions of this magnitude, then our team will also be able to provide statewide and nationwide healthcare for Black and Brown people. The “second-rate healthcare” experience that currently exists in the U.S. is precisely why our platform exists. We strive to accomplish more than just getting patients inside the doors of clinics and hospitals. We want to be as involved as possible in the patient’s care process to encourage their compliance (i.e. taking medications as prescribed, implementing lifestyle changes), and to ensure the individual feels that their concerns were heard and considered by their physician. Our approach to careful formulation of necessary care plans is collaborative. Our communities are missing the unwavering execution that is necessary to achieve the life-saving changes we desire, so we are bridging the gap.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Currently, I am a pre-medical/graduate student, and aspiring physician. I feel compelled to selflessly contribute to the change I desire to see in the field of health and healing, even before the white coat and credentials. Helping family members, friends, and peers navigate the difficult U.S. healthcare system, has fueled my determination to do the same for others on a much larger-scale. I have a burning desire to contribute to the advancement of the healthcare experience for Black and Brown Americans, as this changes the course of said experiences for all Americans, and I will not stop pursuing it for as long as I live. This is my life’s purpose.
I founded The Healthcare Plug while I was battling Covid-19. It was definitely the most uncomfortable experience I’ve had in my life, thus far. I spent time away from my son, my family, and my friends. It was difficult. But I used that time in solitude to bring something to life that God had placed in my heart a few months before the launch. I’m always looking for ways to show someone they’re loved, reminding them that their mere existence is a blessing. My huge heart for people is why I often find myself awake until 3 and 4a.m., jotting down ideas, doing research, and putting my all into this work. I know I can’t do this alone, but my friends and family know me well enough to know that I’d try, so I’m extremely thankful for their selflessness, and gentle, loving reminders to take care of myself, ask for help when I need it, and to *delegate*.
At my last job, I was praised because I never hesitated to go the extra mile to meet a patient’s needs. Sometimes that meant sitting on the phone for an hour to help a patient secure an important specialist appointment, and sometimes it meant paying off a patient’s collection balance for them, so they could be seen in a timely manner. I was willing to do any and everything, and it never once felt like a burden or unnecessary. I willingly sacrificed, because I believe that people have a right to be well. The system, the politics, circumstances, and everything alike, shouldn’t prevent that. I also believe that sometimes we label actions as the “extra mile”, when they should really be the norm. If we all worked harder to care for the person next to us, we could manifest unfathomable change.
No portion of my journey has been easy, but I have persevered through every trial, thanks to God, my family, and my amazing friends. I’ve experienced seasons of rejection, doubt, disappointment, and delay–but each one was instrumental in molding me into the woman I am today. Recently, a mentor told me that my story was *key*, and that people should know about it. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it, but it hit me differently this time. To protect my peace, I stopped sharing details of the hardest chapters of my life “in case” someone needed it, and instead, asked God to sharpen my discernment so that I could learn to share my story when someone was sent to me, because they *needed* to hear what I had overcome, so they could do the same. How valuable I am is not to be determined by my performance, what someone reads about me on paper, how “resilient” they believe me to be, or what they think they know about me. Those that know me personally, know that there is nothing that can stop me when I’m determined. My God-given roles as a mother, daughter, sister, best friend, mentor, etc. are my anchors. I was built for this. Everything you need to know about me will always show up in my work.
If there is anything the world should understand about this organization & its team, it’s that our work will not stop until racial and ethnic health disparities are diminished. Our plans and aspirations may seem “far-fetched” right now, and it may even seem like we’re “biting off more than we can chew”–but I can assure you, the work we were created to do, will get done. People thought Noah was crazy for building an ark when they’d never seen rain, but hey–you know the rest! I am SO proud of this organization, SO blessed to have everyone behind it, and I can’t imagine the impact this is going to have in the years to come! Black and Brown health is *finally* becoming a priority, and I’m happy to be a part of one of the hardworking platforms making it happen.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh em gee, this is one of the main things I love about being born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. There is always something to do, somewhere to go, and someone to know. I’ve lived here all of my life and I’m still experiencing things for the first time! I would have to say my favorite place to hangout is Atlantic Station, and you’ll probably always catch me eating at Yardhouse (their cocktails and lobster garlic noodles are amazing)! You also can’t go wrong with Ponce City Market! I love to have fun, so places like Six Flags Over Georgia, Andretti’s, Top Golf, and Revery (a virtual reality bar), are definitely favorites. For self-care purposes, I absolutely love Jeju Sauna & Spa! This is another endless list–Atlanta is where it’s at and that’s why it seems like the whole world has moved here in the last decade (i.e., traffic 24/7), so I want to plug this amazing Instagram page: @imanashanti. She is a food influencer, and her page is a resource I visit *frequently* for restaurant and bar ideas!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Community is at the top of the list when considering the things that matter most to me in this life. The Healthcare Plug would not have come into fruition, and the milestones we’ve reached (in just under a year), would not have been possible without the love and encouragement from my family members, mentors, friends, and community members. There are too many individuals to name, but I want to at least recognize my parents, Blake and Lori Kenya, Drs. Ronnie and Cassandra Bolar, Jessica Stewart, Alexis Evans, Aurielle Lucier, Zoë Julian, Sharlene Kemler, Kaila Hairston, my family-friends at Meharry Medical College, the mentors within the Ideator program at the Won’dry at Vanderbilt University, and my amazing new board members that I can’t wait to introduce to the world! The list is truly endless, and I feel extremely blessed by each and every individual that has supported this organization in any capacity.
Alexis Evans & Kaila Hairston