Legal Aid Attorney Hugh "Trey" Daly III Works to Expand Access to Care

Daly, a senior attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, has won the Community Health Leaders 2009 award for his work protecting the coverage and ensuring the care of many of Ohio's poorest residents.

When a major health care company canceled its network of coverage, including the hospital that was the main provider of indigent care in the region, Hugh “Trey” Daly III filed a lawsuit to ensure that the plaintiffs—all poor people with disabilities—could keep their providers. He won a favorable decision that helped his clients to get the care they needed.

Daly has obtained health care for thousands of low income and sick people in southwest Ohio. When Medicaid applicants were forced to miss work to file their papers at the local Medicaid agency office, pay eight dollars or more to park, and stand in line for hours to personally submit documents to prove their eligibility, Daly started the Library Project. Now applicants can submit their applications on weekends or evenings at their local library branch where parking is free.

“Low-income people do not have the flexibility to leave their jobs. So many of these people face additional obstacles to get the coverage they need. We started the Library Project in an effort to reduce the hoops that people have to jump through,” said Daly.

Part of his mission is to address problems in the health care system that can put or keep a family in poverty. “We know that medical debt is the main reason people file for personal bankruptcy. It can ruin your credit rating, which can affect your ability to get a job, rent an apartment, or get life insurance,” said Daly. “There are a lot of ripple effects that are not obvious.”

Daly has also published a “Health Care Guide for the Uninsured” that helps thousands of low-income families navigate complex health systems and bureaucracies to get needed care. His collaborative approach has resulted in two coalitions that promote access to health care for low-income people—the Southwest Ohio Covering Kids and Families Coalition and the Greater Cincinnati Healthcare Access Project.

As the lawmakers in Washington continue to grapple with health care reform, Daly said he is making sure his clients have access to care—especially care that they are entitled to—under Medicaid. “For many Medicaid beneficiaries, just because they have a Medicaid card doesn't mean they can find health care providers to serve them or their children,” he said. “We have done studies that have found that most of the doctors who accept Medicaid are not accepting any new patients. You can provide coverage, but you also need to ensure access.” A top priority for Daly is to get more pediatricians to participate in Medicaid.

His father, a hospital social worker for more than 40 years, inspired his line of work. His father often described the challenges he faced on the job, including preventing people from being discharged before they had a home to go to or a way to get there. Although his father retired more than 15 years ago, Daly still runs into people who remember his father and who remind him that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”