June 17, 2008
New Efforts to Combat Underinsurance as Numbers Nationwide Increase Dramatically
Boston, MA - As the number of people across the nation who are “underinsured” reaches epidemic proportions, Community Catalyst today awarded grants to advocate-led collaboratives in Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi and North Carolina to improve access to health care and reduce medical debt for the underinsured.
An estimated 25 million people, although they have insurance, are not protected from high medical expenses, according to a recent report from the Commonwealth Fund. This figure represents a 60 percent increase from 2003 to 2007. Middle-income families experienced the biggest growth, with the number of underinsured nearly tripling over that four year period.
The grant program, an initiative of Community Catalyst’s Hospital Accountability Project, promotes changes in policies and practices of individual hospitals and hospital systems and works for reform at local and state levels. Each state collaborative will embark on campaigns and activities aimed at improving health access and reducing medical debt for low- and moderate-income underinsured individuals and families.
“In spite of paying ever-rising premiums and co-payments, too many Americans are shocked to learn that their insurance fails them when they need it most. While we work to eliminate the causes of underinsurance, we must also provide a safety net that protects people from financial ruin and gives them access to timely medical services,” said Renée Markus Hodin, Project Director at Community Catalyst, a national consumer health advocacy organization. “We’re pleased to support these state and local groups who are working to create a more transparent, accountable and fair health care system for everyone.”
This grant is the third phase of a project funded by the settlement of a class action lawsuit against the Tenet Healthcare Corporation, a national for-profit hospital company. The suit alleged illegal billing and collection tactics against the uninsured and underinsured. As part of the settlement, the court awarded Community Catalyst funds to provide grants in 15 states to attack the problems that gave rise to the original litigation. Advocacy groups in California, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas received grants earlier this year. The remaining five grants for Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada and South Carolina will be awarded later in 2008 and in 2009.
New Community Catalyst Hospital Accountability Project Grant Recipients:
Arkansas: The Arkansas Hospital Accountability Project will work to create a partnership between nonprofit hospitals and their communities to expand coverage for the underinsured. The project will also work with local hospitals, particularly those in Central Arkansas, to create local hospital policies that end aggressive debt collection and discriminatory pricing, allow patients to make reasonable payment plans, and publicize the availability of patient financial assistance. The Project is being led by Arkansas ACORN, a community organization of low- to moderate-income families.
Florida: The Florida Hospital Accountability Project seeks to increase underinsured and uninsured consumers’ access to hospital financial assistance while decreasing medical debt and aggressive collections practices. The Project will focus on educating consumers about available patient financial assistance and on improving hospital notification about these programs. It will also focus on evaluating and monitoring the distribution of funds in Florida’s Low Income Pool to ensure that the program places priorities on the needs of the underinsured. The Project is being led by Florida CHAIN, a statewide consumer health care advocacy network organization dedicated to improving the health of all Floridians by promoting sustainable access to affordable, effective health care.
Mississippi: The Mississippi Hospital Accountability Project will focus on creating better access to health care for the underinsured. The Project will research hospital practices with regard to the underinsured in the Jackson area, and use the findings to promote improved hospital financial assistance policies and practices. It will also campaign for future legislative reforms in Mississippi. The Project is being led by Mississippi ACORN, a community organization of low- to moderate-income families.
North Carolina: The North Carolina Hospital Accountability Project is aimed at improving North Carolina’s hospital financial assistance policies and collection practices for all of the State’s underinsured. The Project will use a combination of education and outreach activities, the development of “best practices” standards for the State’s hospitals, and the identification and implementation of state law and policy changes to protect patients from the consequences of medical debt. The Project is being led by the North Carolina Justice Center, North Carolina’s leading private, nonprofit anti-poverty organization.
About Community Catalyst:
Community Catalyst is a national non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to making quality, affordable health care accessible to everyone. Since 1997, Community Catalyst has worked to build consumer and community leadership to transform the American health system. With the belief that this transformation will happen when consumers are fully engaged and have an organized voice, Community Catalyst works in partnership with national, state and local consumer organizations, policymakers, and foundations, providing leadership and support to change the health care system so it serves everyone—especially vulnerable members of society. For more information, visit www.communitycatalyst.org.