Nzinga Khalid – Member Advocate, Independent Care Health Plan, Milwaukee

My job allows me the opportunity to give back to our citizens in Milwaukee, some of the same gifts given to me,” says Nzinga Khalid, an advocate at Independent Care Health Plan and winner of a Health Care Heroes Award for community service.

Khalid found her niche in managed care after graduating from Marquette University with a degree in social work.

“My grandmother needed assistance understanding her Medicare and Medicaid benefits,” said Khalid. “In the process of doing research to help her, I came across the opening at Independent Care, where people were in situations like my grandmother and needed help navigating the system.”

Khalid applied for the job and is taking the position to new levels, helping clients with grievances and appeals regarding denials of coverage and fighting for their medical benefits.

“I realize that every challenge is an opportunity,” said Khalid, who has developed new avenues to help clients access insurance and available services.

The 33-year-old Khalid was born in Chicago with the given name Donna Cellastine. She legally changed her name in 2000 to Nzinga, which was the name of a queen in Angola, Africa.

“It’s Swahili for beauty, strength and courage, and I view queen Nzinga as my hero because she was a very vibrant, fierce warrior whom I look to for strength and courage,” Khalid said. 

Khalid has become an advocate for the African-American community in Milwaukee.

“When you look at the African- American community, they suffer a disproportionate rate from infant mortality, diabetes and high blood pressure,” Khalid said. “I really feel it’s my responsibility to take the knowledge I’ve been given and share it with the entire community.”

Debra Davis is Khalid’s supervisor who nominated her for the Health Care Heroes Award.

“When people have trouble getting health care and are concerned about services, Nzinga is there for them,” Davis said. “Her job is extremely hard. She serves about 8,000 people with Medicare and Medicaid programs. She works as an advocate from both sides. She understands the health plan perspective and also how to work with members within the constraints of the program.”

Davis said the key to Khalid’s success is her awareness of policy, procedures and state requirements.

“She also has really good communication internally with care coordinators and medical directors,” Davis said.

During their initial conversation about the vision for Independent Care Health Plan, Khalid and Davis exchanged similar ideas. And then, according to Davis, Khalid ran with the program and took it to new heights.

“She had ideas about diversity training and health care practices among Asian clients and the challenges facing the deaf and blind community. She brought these people in to talk about their culture and ask how we could be proactive,” Davis said.

Khalid said her education and networking ability are the skills she uses to solve client issues.

“I’m able to explore avenues, meet people and build networks, so when I’m presented with a problem from one of my members, I can tap into that resource and assist with health care issues and non-medical problems,” she said.

In a 2006 survey, Independent Health Care Plan scored a 97 percent member satisfaction rating.

Khalid said she goes home feeling rewarded at the end of every workday.

“Helping others is the reason we’re here, and it’s just a great feeling when you know you truly made a difference in the life of one of our members,” she said.

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